Cisco's EOS online-content platform coming next year

Networking giant details first product of its push to help media companies connect with customers

Cisco will introduce next year its Entertainment Operating System (EOS), a platform for delivering multimedia content to online communities.

EOS will be the first major product of Cisco's push into helping media companies connect with their customers. It will combine a delivery system, a social networking platform, and a set of tools to help consumers find the content they want, said Dan Scheinman, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco's media solutions group. It will go on sale in 2008, he said.

Two online fan communities, run by the National Hockey League and the NASCAR auto-racing organization, are using elements of EOS today, Scheinman said. NHL Connect, launched last year and uses technology from social networking company Five Across, which Cisco acquired in February.

Content providers like the sports leagues have large and loyal fan bases but don't know how to enrich the fan experience or get them to spend more time on their sites, he said. EOS will be a standardized solution for doing that.

Making online communities stronger benefits both consumers and content providers, according to Scheinman: Fans get to know each other and providers learn more about their visitors. On top of that, more visits can mean more revenue. Sites such as the NHL's and NASCAR's have found that providing legitimate video content leads to more user-generated content as visitors comment on the videos. As they do, visits go up by three to five times, which means three to five times as many opportunities to advertise to the community, he said.

EOS will help visitors find content through a recommendation and relevance engine that looks at a user's activity patterns and makes personalized suggestions, Scheinman said.

The growing flood of information available online begs for this type of approach because users often don't even know what they're looking for, he said.

"Finding anything in this world of infinite information out there is really going to be tricky," Scheinman said. "You want to be able to have content find you."

Cisco's network expertise and recent social-networking acquisitions uniquely equip it to solve this set of problems, he said.

"We've become the only company that can do all of these three things together," Scheinman said.