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FiOS TV Friends the Web

Verizon Communications — looking to add every ounce of differentiation between FiOS TV and cable — last week rolled out a series of Internet-connected widgets from ESPN, Facebook and Twitter, and later this month will offer subscribers an array of user-generated video clips from Veoh, and Dailymotion.

The telco also plans to release an “open” software-development kit that would let developers write interactive FiOS TV applications and offer them free or for a fee through the service's Widget Bazaar marketplace.

Mike Wolf, vice president of research at GigaOm, said the telco's Web-connected TV services were interesting but probably not a game-changer.

“Being able to interact with friends in the context of video entertainment is compelling,” he said. “It kind of gives Verizon bragging rights as the first pay TV operator to do this … but I don't think it will get widely adopted.”

The first apps in the Widget Bazaar are free. ESPN's Fantasy Football Widget provides on-screen access to personalized info including rosters, box scores, scoring leaders and player information. Verizon had already offered the ESPN widget in select markets, including Portland, Ore.

Verizon's Twitter widget lets FiOS TV subscribers follow “tweets” related specifically to the program, movie or sporting event they are watching, select from a list of top topics or search for specific keywords. Meanwhile, Facebook users who log in to their accounts can set the widget to automatically update their status with what they're watching on FiOS TV, as well as view photos and friends' status updates.

With the new features, “passive TV becomes social TV,” Verizon Telecom vice president of marketing Shawn Strickland said in making the announcement.

“People of all ages and backgrounds are living their lives online today,” he said. “They increasingly want to expand their online lives beyond their computer to other networked devices in the home. This especially holds true for their TVs, which remain the favorite entertainment source at home.”

Verizon said it will add more free and paid applications to the Widget Bazaar in the coming months. The telco promised to soon publish a software-development kit to let third-party developers publish applications to FiOS TV's more than 7 million interactive set-top devices. The kit will be based on Lua, an embeddable open-source scripting language.

In addition, later in July, FiOS TV subscribers with the Home Media DVR service will be able to access user-generated online videos from video-sharing sites, Dailymotion and Veoh. Another new feature, My Videos, will let customers watch videos stored on their PCs on their TVs.

The Internet and PC video features will be available for no additional fee to FiOS Home Media DVR customers and require no additional equipment. The features employ PC-based software that transcodes video for playback on FiOS's Motorola set-tops.