OpenTV Reports on the Future of Interactive TV
By Davis Freeberg
Tracy Swedlow’s interactive TV today blog has an excellent interview with Amos Manasseh the VP of Global Sales and Marketing for OpenTV’s Participation TV program. Basically, this is a service that allows broadcasters to track and implement interactive games, quizzes and other features into their programming. As time shifting becomes a greater issue, we are finding that broadcasters have been trying to come up with ways to encourage people to watch live TV instead. Whether it’s letting the public vote on their favorite American Idol or play along with Jeopardy live on their cell phones, broadcasters are clearly beginning to look to alternatives that can help keep people from fast forwarding through their ads. In his interview with the ITVT blog, Manasseh talks about how OpenTV plans to capitalize on this trend.
“You might have a whole series of events that are synchronized with a TV show, a poll or competition or game that’s an ongoing thing sitting on the program’s Web site, and multiple peripheral activities that involve marketing to consumers–for example encouraging them to register and become part of a community, incentivizing them with loyalty points, bonus points and prizes etc. The system’s designed to attract, retain and then monetize your viewer.”
One of the nice things about Participation TV is that once a company builds a template for their programming, OpenTV can then quickly add new polls or interactivity to the show. This allows OpenTV to build out templetes for their clients and then be able to create or update content at a later date. In his interview, Manasseh provided more details about the flexibility of their system.
“We recently did a proof- of-concept, where a broadcaster wanted us to create a series of events and do an interactive layer for one of their existing shows. We set half a dozen interactive events, some of which were linked to others, some of which were scheduled for playout manually, and some of which were scheduled to activate automatically. Halfway through the show, which we were actually doing live, they said, “Can you quickly create another event, which will play out immediately after the commercial break?” So we created a brand new event from scratch, and were able to broadcast it within two-and-a-half minutes on both SMS and Web. The system is super-flexible.”
While interactive TV is beginning to look interesting, this product is clearly designed with broadcasters in mind and not consumers. Most of the key features on the software are designed more from a CRM standpoint then an end user standpoint. OpenTV’s Participation TV program is more effective at enabling broadcasters to measure audience participation, then creating new ways to make TV more dynamic. I don’t mind giving up personal data, but without a compelling trade off, I don’t know that I would be very enthusiastic about letting broadcasters use my data to make me watch more commercials. While this is probably a good move from a business standpoint, I would personally be much more excited to see OpenTV develop ways that you could integrate VOIP into the television experience or a way to use the internet to compliment TV shows. Inititives that would excite me more would be a way to play as Phil Ivey while watching the World Series of Poker instead of seeing everyone’s hand, the ability to comparison shop when commercials show up or the merging of TV and video games. If there was a way to begin to integrate puzzles directly into television, you could set up programming where people need to solve puzzles to see the next scene or you could only allow voting by people who can make it through the games. For the time being, there isn’t a lot for me to get excited about, but if we ever see Fox launch Mensa Idol, I might end up being more interested.