ZoneTV Lands on DirecTV

Marking its first launch on a video platform that is not powered by Ericsson Mediaroom, ZoneTV said it has integrated and debuted its first interactive app on DirecTV’s system.

That app, Santa Tracker, arrives amid the holiday season and is being integrated with DirecTV’s electronic program guide. The app supports several interactive elements and components, including a Christmas Countdown Calendar, Holiday-themed movies, “Rudolph Radio,” multiple games, and English- and Spanish-language read-along books and sign-alongs. On Christmas Eve, the app will also show a global map that children can use to tracks the Santa Claus’s progress.

“Combining elements of on-demand, interactivity into a very robust experience, kids can come back continuously,” Jeff Weber, ZoneTV’s CEO, said, hopeful that Santa Tracker is the first of many apps it will offer on the DirecTV platform.

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ZoneTV, a company formerly known as ES3, got its start by integrating apps with Mediaroom, the IPTV middleware platform that Ericsson acquired from Microsoft in the fall of 2013. In addition to AT&T U-verse TV, ZoneTV also has footholds on Mediaroom-powered video platforms from Telefónica, MTS, Hawaiian Telecom, Telus, Frontier Communications and CenturyLink.

ZoneTV, which notched a $4.1 million seed round led by Best Funds about a year ago, has been pushing ahead on a plan to expand beyond Mediaroom. Its launch on DirecTV, acquired by AT&T in July 2015, is its first launch outside of Mediaroom.

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Weber, an exec who previously helped to lead the U-verse division at AT&T, said the Christmas-themed app can run on DirecTV’s HR44 receiver and above, giving it access to the bulk of the boxes/receivers that have been deployed by the satellite operator.

Weber said ZoneTV’s experience in porting “digital-first” apps and content to the set-top is transferable to a wide range of pay TV operator ecosystems.

ZoneTV hasn’t announced where it intends to land next, but possible candidates could include platforms such as TiVo, Comcast’s X1, as well as the next-gen video serving being developed and deployed by Charter Communications in partnership with ActiveVideo. AT&T is also working on a next-gen architecture (subscription required) that aims to bring unity to its IPTV and satellite TV platforms.

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“We’ll be able to play in multiple operating systems,” Weber said. “We have really deep expertise in taking digital content into an operator’s environment,” he added, noting that ZoneTV is in talks with “some of the largest cable providers.”

ZoneTV is also moving ahead on a strategy to create “dynamic channels” that can be integrated with an MVPD’s set-top box-based programming guide. Weber said he expects to have more detail to share at CES 2017, which gets underway in January in Las Vegas.