Rovi deal gives Facebook data for building out entertainment, video platform

Facebook today announced a deal with Rovi Corporation to use Rovi Video, a database of information about movies, TV shows and celebrities that can be used to improve search and discovery across its platform.

Rovi’s data helps power experiences like on-screen TV guides, iTunes, Flixter, and many others. Facebook has been building out its “entity graph,” which are all the people, places and things that are represented with pages. Users primarily connect to these objects by Liking them, but now Facebook is making a push for users to do so through actions like “watch/want to watch,” “read/want to read” or “listen/want to listen.” Improving the metadata associated with these objects could give Facebook new opportunities when it comes to search, News Feed relevance, recommendations and offering new features for developers

Before the Rovi deal, Facebook used Wikipedia and Freebase to populate information about movies, TV shows and other entities, for example for the module on the “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi” page below. However, those sources are community-curated and not necessarily as reliable as what Rovi provides for many of the largest companies in the world.

Facebook is clearly setting itself up to be a greater player in the entertainment space. The company recently made movies, books, TV shows and music a larger part of users’ Timelines and About pages and introduced structured status updates for people to share what they’re watching, reading or listening to, among other activities.

“We see the social interaction with movies, TV shows and video entertainment growing immensely over the next couple of years,” Facebook said in a press release. “With this in mind, we’ve sought Rovi as a valuable source for TV and movie information to help provide the backdrop that we need to enable developers to create a connected experience for consumers in their apps and services.”

With Rovi data, Facebook and third-party developers could start creating more social TV applications and other entertainment discovery experiences. In the past, Zuckerberg and other Facebook employees have described a vision where a user can turn on their TV and instead of viewing a typical schedule or flipping through channels, they could see what their friends Like or have watched. In 2011, Facebook Director of Platform Partnerships EMEA Christian Hernandez Gallardo talked about an idea that would let users indicate they wanted to watch a TV episode, invite their friends, get reminded, and then alert their friends when they’re watching. There’s a lot that Facebook or developers could ultimately offer once a foundation of data is in place.

For its part, Rovi will be able to gain a more comprehensive list of Facebook page IDs, which it can associate with Rovi IDs so customers can include links to the movie or TV shows’ Facebook pages.