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Interactive TV: It Will Happen, Inevitably

At the NAB Show in Las Vegas, interactive TV was again abuzz. This remains appropriate — no matter how long this TV add-on remains in the wings — because, like 3DTV and social TV, interactive TV is going to happen. The only real questions are how and who.

The reason interactive TV is a “given” is because it is natural to the human experience. In the same way that people see in 3D (and that is why 3DTV will eventually thrive), so, too, do people seek naturally to react instantly when communicating. And a natural need to implement is usually good. When the right device(s) and software come along to make that happen, and when iTV stakeholders can educate viewing consumers to its relevance and sense, iTV will achieve its inevitability.

iTV Facts

Advertising will also inevitably be a big part of the iTV future, especially as that relates to social media. According to market research firm eMarketer, of the estimated current $170 bil. media and ad spending U. S. market, a miniscule $2.6 bil. is expected to be spent in 2012, rising to perhaps as much as $11 bil. by 2016. Yet, as USA Today’s Jon Swartz noted recently, in an article entitled “Money From Mobile Remains Elusive,” “…mobile ads are crucial to the growth of many companies, including newly public Facebook, though few companies have been able to capitalize on the promise.”

Facebook’s Interactivity

Moreover, as Facebook and similar applications morph more toward video replacing stills, Facebook, too, will jump onto the interactive video bandwagon. This is still a long ways away, but it, too, is inevitable.

It was fascinating last month to see General Motors back away from Facebook ads, suggesting those ads do not relate enough with Facebook users to offer that “click through,” no less that showroom visit and ultimate purchase. But what is interesting is understanding the real reason behind that GM decision and that overall interactive ad challenge: again, GM is not leaving social media (and Facebook) forever, rather it needs to find the mix right.

This is another way of saying that ITV/video is a “given” in a future Facebook world, especially when the ads can be made easy and attractive to use, they are always relevant, and they produce good business models for the key stakeholders. Again, a natural need to implement is good.

Accelerated Media

One of the impressive iTV iterations I visited at April’s 2012 NAB Show - and that is looking to bring some of this iTV all together — is a Colorado-based company called Accelerated Media (AM) (See, Lead by three media industry veterans, Doug McGary, Nick Meyers, and Lesa Bannon, AM appears focused on anticipating the future, which can be a very good business.

In this case, AM is getting ahead of the curve of consumers constantly relying on 2d screen devices, even while they are watching the first screen. They have advertising clients, including broadcasters and automotive companies, that are taking advantage of second screen devices to place highly customized and targeted (lest we say relevant) advertising that links to live TV ads. The linked ads, or companion ads, show up on iPads, connected TVs, and mobile phones through audio content recognition. Notes McGary, “To be successful and reach mass audiences in today’s marketplace, you have to have a play on all devices.” And because measurement is a key feature of the AM service, a recent AM campaign reached nearly 80 million households, AM reports.

TiVo’s Take

At the cable industry’s NCTA 2012 in Boston this year, I also saw an additional, impressive, and worth noting iTV development from TiVo. Interestingly, TiVo is itself, today, already a rather “traditional” player in the advanced TV space. Yet, as many may not be aware, 13 years after it first launched in 1998, the Alviso, CA-based DVR, storage, and user interface company is also seriously plying the iTV worlds, as well.

TiVo’s most current iTV story involves an Internet Protocol, set-top box and a transcoding device called “TiVo Stream,” which enables content viewing on any screen in the house, including to mobile devices. The IP STB delivers not just TV content, but also web content, to any screen in the house and through the same TiVo user interface. The “TiVo Stream” also allows tablets, iPhones, and other devices to not only control the DVR, but also to consume and discover new content on them as well.

Jim Denney, vice president and general manager for TiVo Product Marketing, notes, “Consumers have reached the point where they no longer just demand on-demand and time-shifted content to fit their own schedule, but they now also want the flexibility to watch content on any screen, including their mobile devices. Knowing this, TiVo has created a suite of offerings that deliver the same TiVo experience, regardless of the screen being used.”

And voila, it’s another set of steps toward true iTV.

Again, when companies focus on doing what just makes good sense, it makes predictions of “inevitability” just that much easier.
Jimmy Schaeffler is chairman and CSO of Carmel-by-the-Sea-based consultancy The Carmel Group (