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DirecTV service recommends personalized programming

Satellite provider's Web site will now let consumers rate movies and TV shows to find offerings that match their taste.

DirecTV is about to get personal.

The satellite TV service that offers hundreds of channels is now giving customers a way to cut through the clutter. Instead of scrolling through an endless list of programming, the new My TV Planner feature on the Web site will help customers find TV shows, movies and pay-per-view programming in line with their personal preferences, the company is expected to announce Thursday.

Using the services of ChoiceStream, a 6-year-old company based in Cambridge, Mass., DirecTV customers will be able to rate programming and receive personalized recommendations.

DirecTV subscribers can rate 6 to 10 movies and TV shows, and a personalized page displaying selections that match an individual's preference profile will appear and be updated with suggested programming and scheduled air times for the coming week.

ChoiceStream is the same company behind the personalized recommendations at Yahoo's My Movies and the online subscription service eMusic. Distributors are beginning to see that helping customers find content that's meaningful to them is vitally important, said Steve Johnson, CEO of ChoiceStream.

"The common complaint is that recommendations just seem out of left field," Johnson said, referring to the collaborative-filtering systems that other personalization software utilize.

ChoiceStream's approach to customizing content considers user ratings, a database of movies and shows and between 20 and 50 of their attributes--such as genre, mood and character tension--and the expressed preferences of other like-minded users.

The My TV Planner service is free to DirecTV customers.

The decision to make DirecTV's Web site more user-friendly began with its re-launch in June. Enabling customers to find relevant television shows was identified as a feature that needed improvement, according to Karen Leever, senior vice president of

"Last year was a watershed year for personalization," said ChoiceStream's Johnson. "That's when the race for relevance began."

Indeed, the sheer amount of content available to consumers can be overwhelming, and the ability to sift through the chaff to find the grain becomes much more important. Personalizing content can be a way to differentiate a service in a market with an abundance of competitors. Businesses are willing to pay for it, too. Last month Netflix announced a $1 million bounty payable to anyone who could improve the accuracy of its personal recommendations feature by 10 percent.