Amazon-owned online movie and TV show database IMDb has launched its first real Alexa skill in conjunction with Paramount Network.
The new skill is a Flash Briefing, which is a customizable news alert that Alexa plays containing information gleaned from numerous online sources, as determined by the user. You can activate the briefing by saying, “Alexa, what’s my Flash Briefing?”
In the case of IMDb’s “What’s on TV” Flash Briefing, users will receive airtime and network details relating to the day’s top five trending TV shows, based on IMDb pageview data.
You may recall that Amazon last year explicitly banned advertising in Alexa skills, with two notable exceptions: ads within music and Flash Briefings. And there are some rules in place for those ads — for example, they can’t use Alexa’s voice or a voice that sounds similar.
Officially, the IMDb Flash Briefing is “presented by Paramount Network,” which seemed to suggest that all recommendations would hail from the network’s own TV shows. That isn’t the case, which is a good thing, as it would be a little one-dimensional. As a sponsor, Paramount Network will receive a “featured placement” within each day’s Flash Briefing — but only if one of its shows is airing.
“Continuing our commitment to helping entertainment fans discover new TV shows to watch, IMDb is thrilled to leverage voice-activated data for the first time, using our unique trending data to make decision-making simple for audiences on Alexa-enabled devices,” said IMDb COO Rob Grady, in a press release.
IMDb began as a pre-web hobby project more than 25 years ago and has been an Amazon company since 1998. Alongside Rotten Tomatoes, it’s one of the most popular online repositories for information on all things film and TV, so it’s a major attraction for big TV networks like Paramount.
“As we launched Paramount Network, we were looking to align with brands that would help us deliver innovation to the marketplace in support of our exciting new slate of shows,” added Anhelo Reyes, senior VP of marketing at Paramount Network.
Alexa actually already taps IMDb for one voice-activated command, letting users request ratings for movies and TV shows by asking: “Alexa, what’s the IMDb rating for [title]?” But it’s interesting that Amazon is now dabbling with ads within the Alexa ecosystem. The news comes a month after a CNBC report suggested that Amazon was ramping up plans to monetize Alexa through sponsorships within skills, with the likes of Procter & Gamble and Clorox reportedly involved in talks with Amazon.
It’s still not clear exactly how Amazon plans to shoehorn ads into its burgeoning Alexa skills platform, but its tie-up with Paramount Network is a strong indication as to the direction things are heading. It’s starting to look a lot like Google’s ad placements, whereby companies pay to have their product promoted amongst organic results.