The Business of Interactive TV

Despite the word “Consumer” in its title, the Consumer Electronic Show is basically a B2B event: It’s for companies to introduce products, technologies, and concepts to other companies with the goal of getting down to bizness and making money. That’s one reason why there are hundreds of conference sessions and press events related to stuff other than huge TVs, headphones, and other gadgets.

One such event I checked out was held by the Interactive TV Alliance. Turns out this group was founded 12 years ago—a time when analog broadcasting was still viable—to accelerate the deployment of interactive TV. During its first few years, the group was aimed at bringing interactive services to the Cable TV ecosystem, but something happened in the interim: mobile tech. With Second Screen apps now redefining the way folks take in TV, the group has regrouped around mobile and set its focus on a different goal: creating a viable business model for service providers and interactive TV app developers.

How do they plan to go about it? From what I gleaned at the group’s press conference, Transforming TV: Innovations + Disruptions in Next Generation TV, it will be via social media and metadata. A presenter from ConnecTV, a social media app that lets viewers share favorite 6-second TV clips along with comments, quipped, “We need to find the antitodote to ad-skipping.” (Ironically, he was apparently one of the developers of TiVo, the TV ad-skippers’ weapon-of-choice.) Another presentation was from ExciteM, a cloud-based “audience engagement and interaction” platform used by broadcasters to conduct live polls and gather viewer feedback. With both speakers, the message was about grabbing eyeballs and keeping them open via audience participation—the better to show you ads.

The other method that companies plan to use to make money off interactive TV is metadata. As anyone who has used a Smart TV platform to conduct content searches knows, the results you get can be completely useless. The reason for this is that on-demand TV and film content often lacks standardized metadata for search engines to tap. (The ISBN system used by book publishers was cited as a model of how content producers should go about doing things.) Bad VOD search results equal lost revenue earning opportunities, and the Interactive Television Alliance doesn’t like that!