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Verizon Gives Social Media a TV Spot

Verizon Gives Social Media a TV Spot

Verizon has launched a couple of new services that make the Internet a more visible presence on the television sets of its FiOS subscribers, although they're not, strictly speaking, interactive. Users will be able to view Twitter feeds commenting on a TV show they're watching right on the screen, for example -- but they'll still have to use some other device to post their own tweets.

By Erika Morphy
07/15/09 12:21 PM PT

Verizon has launched two products that fall into what it is calling the "social TV" service category: the Widget Bazaar application store and Internet Video on TV.

The latter is a collection of widgets that Verizon has developed in conjunction with Facebook Connect, Twitter, ESPN, Veoh, Blip.tv, and Dailymotion that let FiOS TV subscribers connect with others while watching TV.

For example, the Twitter widget lets FiOS TV subscribers follow tweets related specifically to the program they are watching. Users also can select from a list of top topics to view tweets associated with a particular topic or trends, search for specific tweets, and create a customized favorite-topics list.

The widget also provides search functionality that allows users to view PC-based videos on their television screens.

The Facebook widget works in a similar fashion: FiOS TV subscribers can log into their account through the FiOS TV widget to update their status with messages about what they're watching.

The ESPN Fantasy Football widget gives access to personalized ESPN Fantasy Football points and football statistics, including rosters, box scores, scoring leaders and player information.

Video-Sharing Search

Later this month, customers who subscribe to the Home Media DVR service will have access to a feature that will let them search and view on FiOS TV user-generated content from video-sharing sites Blip.tv, Dailymotion and Veoh. They will be able to search for content on the sites individually, or on all at once.

These applications are currently available in the Widget Bazaar, which will expand later this month with dozens of additional widgets. The open development platform will permit developers to write interactive FiOS TV-centered applications and make them available through the online store.

Verizon will publish its software development kit for the Widget Bazaar shortly, it said. The SDK will use the programming language Lua.

Verizon is expecting between 40 and 50 widgets from traditional partners over the next six months, according to Maitreyi Krihnaswamy, product manager for interactive video services at Fios TV.

"Our initial focus will be on our existing partners -- we are not quite ready to open the platform to a large third-party model where we can invite game developers and so on," Krihnaswamy told TechNewsWorld.

For the foreseeable future, she said, "it will be invitation only."

Sign of the Times

These developments are part of a larger push among media providers to deliver social networking to the living room, David Erickson, director of e-strategy for Tunheim Partners, told TechNewsWorld.

"All trends have been pointing this way for some time -- from the growing adoption of broadband to the growing popularity of social media," said Erickson.

At the same time, technology -- in this case FiOS' broadband backbone -- is catching up to make it easier to stream such converged content to consumers, he added.

Other examples include Xbox Live's recent deals with Flickr to stream video and Netflix to stream movies, he said.

Uniquely Positioned

Verizon's FiOS service is uniquely positioned compared to traditional cable service providers, agreed Loren Johnson, an industry analyst with Frost & Sullivan's digital media practice.

"FiOS has the capability of bringing in interactive services more easily than competitors because it is IP-based," he told TechNewsWorld.

The service is not ideal -- at least, not from an avid social networker's perspective. For example, users can't interact with each other via the TV, Johnson pointed out.

"If someone is watching a show, he or she can tweet that she is watching it." That way, the consumer stays plugged into Twitter -- but only peripherally.

Still, this is yet another way of keeping social networkers connected.

"When the Internet became so prevalent, there was a fear that it would isolate people," Johnson recalled, "but applications like these are instead bringing people together."


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