Thursday, January 05, 2006

"Two-Screen" TV Goes Back To The Future All Over Again

The TV industry will think outside the box, but it can take time for the power of cross-platform services and multitasking to be appreciated. Recent comments by Joe Franzetta of GoldPocket, a provider of interactive services offered by TBS, FOX, CNN, A&E, and other networks, reflect on that.

Two-screen interactive TV is a partial form of CoTV, coactive TV + Web/PC viewing, that has been widely offered, but very slow to gain recognition and respect as anything more than an experimental toy. The TV industry has mostly viewed interactivity as something that should happen on one screen (the TV). It has viewed two-screen services as a stop-gap way to test interactivity -- one that would fade away once advanced one-screen TV systems are widely deployable.

In a 12/22/05 interview by the newsletter ITVT, Franzetta observes that even as advanced TV systems become more widely deployed, two-screen usage is by no means fading away.

[itvt]: What kinds of developments has GoldPocket been seeing in the interactive TV market in the past few months?

Franzetta: One thing we're seeing is that advertisers and television networks are very interested in broadband TV. A by-product of this interest in the Internet is that we have, you might say, gone "back to the future" a little bit with two-screen interactive TV. Now, obviously, there's a lot of interest on the part of broadcasters and advertisers in deployment of single-screen, set-top box-based applications with both cable and satellite, but we're also seeing a lot of interest in the old, two-screen model. Which I think is partly because our ongoing message of the importance of cross-platform content delivery capabilities is becoming more and more the mantra of the television networks we work with. They want to reach people however they can: whether by set-top box devices, wireless devices or broadband-connected devices.

[itvt]: I think a lot of people thought that two-screen interactive TV was just going to be a temporary solution, until more powerful set-top boxes were widely deployed.

Franzetta: The interest in PC-delivered two-screen ITV applications is tracking very nicely with the resurgence of investment in Internet-related properties that the increasing penetration of broadband has given rise to. With two-screen applications, you had an initial green field of opportunity, but what you could do was restricted by the lack of bandwidth. There wasn't a lot of broadband penetration, and there wasn't a lot of Wi-Fi--which, of course, makes it easier for people to use their computers while watching TV. But now, a lot of people have Wi-Fi in their homes, and certainly broadband penetration in general has gone way up. Because of the increasing availability of broadband, we're also seeing advertisers becoming more and more interested in reaching consumers on the PC and in cross-platform in general.

This back to the future note echoes the insights of a 2003 ITVT interview with Rick Mandler, head of ABC's Enhanced TV unit (which provides two screen services for many ABC programs, in case you hadn't noticed).

Mandler: ... I think if you and I had had this conversation a year ago, I would have said to you, "I think 2-screen is ultimately an interim technology and that everything will move into single-screen." I don't think that anymore. It seems like there are a lot of people who are very comfortable multitasking, who have TV's and PC's in the same room. With wireless networking and home networks and tablet PC's, it seems like there is an ongoing and persistent role for 2-screen interactive television...

There are many reasons people have been slow to notice the appeal of two-screen TV-related interaction. Reluctance to think outside the box is one, and the lack of a simple, ubiquitous way for viewers to get to coactive services is another. CoTV provides remedies to these. Consider the case for coactive TV, and think ahead to the increasingly networked multi-screen home.

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