The Medium Will Really Be the Message

Viewers increasingly are abandoning the TV screen for the latest technology, and, to survive, TV must think outside the box. However, hope does exist in the form of an edgy new trend: interactive text TV.

Text TV creates opportunities for viewers to be participants, rather than just observers. It brings back the “live” viewing audience. Viewers interact in real time with programming and each other by sending text messages from their cellphones directly to the television screen. Viewers watch all the text messages scroll across the screen as they're watching TV—similar to a chat-room session running side by side with programming. It gets even more fun when the viewer's text messages are used to directly interact with a program and the outcome is shaped in real time—like choosing a music video.

This opportunity creates compelling value propositions for every member of the value chain. Multiple vendor, operator and content partner relationships can be leveraged. The more parties involved, the more benefits for everyone—from viewers to vendors.

The marketing mix is radically changed, with the consumer in control. Services in demand include live mobile text-to-screen chat, text games, voting, polling and trivia. Vendors of mobile content such as ringtones, wallpapers and games have more opportunities than ever to create partnerships to target specific communities.

It opens the door for more programs to be offered utilizing mobile interaction to enhance programming and draw in more users who otherwise might look to other media for entertainment. Interactive mobile content and services advertised during programs that include videos, concerts, and music content all generate revenue. The sale of mobile text alerts and participation in mobile text chat and dating, plus participation in IVR (Interactive Voice Response) services, are on the horizon. All these sources of revenue collected by the service/content provider are shared with broadcast partners.

In European and Asian markets, viewers have overwhelmingly responded to offerings. Stations in Europe and Asia run text-messaging 24/7, with trivia games, dating and horoscopes among popular topics. A station owner in Finland reports revenues of 15 million euros per year from interactive-TV services (and only 5 million people live in Finland). Kagan Research estimates that, in the U.S., the interactive-services segment will generate $780 million in operator revenue by 2009.

There's a casting call going out in the industry. Text TV makes it possible for diverse participants to answer it and interact with each other.