The iTV Doctor Is In!: What Was the Single Most Significant Factor in iTV's Success in 2012?

Dear Readers:

This is the first in a short series of commentaries from contributors to The iTV Doctor's columns over the last eight months. We've asked each to add their perspective on the following scenario. We'll continue this series on over the next few weeks.

The iTV Doctor

Dateline: December 22, 2012 - Well, we got past the Mayan "end of the world" prophecy and the world didn't end. In point of fact, our little corner of the world--interactive television--is doing quite nicely, thank you. We have dozens of enhanced/interactive television programs airing every night in over 60 million homes; advertisers have stepped up, and are now paying a healthy premium for interactive spots; and viewers now EXPECT interactivity in their favorite shows--it's just part of the experience.

What was the single most significant factor that led to this success?

From Mike Bloxham, Ball State University:

What was the single most significant factor that led to iTV's success in 2012?

One of the key factors that finally spurred the long-promised growth of iTV in the US was the proliferation of NextGen Remotes. These offered viewers the opportunity to use various widgets and other iTV applications through the additional utility of built-in qwerty keyboards (similar to cell phones) and touch-screens, and overcame much of the resistance to interaction that had been experienced as the first generation of iTV apps were rolled out due to the limited functionality of the traditional TV remote and its impact on user experience.

Suddenly, viewers were able to input text and navigate in ways that built on the strengths of the traditional remote but which were also consistent with other conventions established through the use of devices such as the iPhone and the Blackberry. In the case of those remotes that incorporated touch-screens, they were also now able to view program-related content (promos, special features, highlights, etc.) and enter competitions without intruding on the viewing experience of others in the room.

From Rick Howe, The iTV Doctor:

What was the single most significant factor that led to iTV's success in 2012?

In mid-2010, the International Cricket Federation (ICF) started experimenting with the insertion of overlay interactive ads during cricket matches. During those interminable matches, viewers showed their impatience with single-tasking by switching channels, going out for dinner and occasionally building a house. ICF, in an effort to maintain audience share, encouraged EU advertisers and participating broadcasters to insert interactive ad units (iUnits) into the broadcast stream.

The iUnits were essentially free-standing, unbound interactive ads that did not require a "host" :30 or :60 video advertisement. iUnits could be triggered from any channel at any time, and the concept quickly migrated to the US. The most successful used a powerful Call-To-Action Trigger (CTAC). Initial CTACs were for personal grooming and laundry products, offering coupons and instant savings (delivered by email and to mobile devices).

But the business really took off when Samsung started unloading substantial overstocks of PTHDTV's (Paper-Thin High Definition Television) through local Best Buys. In the week following Christmas 2011, Samsung distributed 457,000 coupons, generating $272mm in retail sales. Other manufacturers and retailers followed. Of course, the distributors, networks and content owners were initially opposed to the iUnits popping up in their programs, but the good people at Starship Media LLC (previously known as Canoe Ventures) stepped in to negotiate a broad-reaching revenue share program that enabled the program to continue and expand.

By late 2012, iUnits (most using CTAC) were generating $4B in annual media placement, generating in excess of $104B in retail sales.

From Will Kreth, Time Warner Cable:

What was the single most significant factor that led to iTV's success in 2012?

There was no "single most significant factor"--just as there were no single "killer apps"--that created new disruptive business models and fostered new customer behaviors. Instead, three small and significant elements made this possible:

1) A healthy blend of interactive PRC (programming-related content) and interactive advertising helped drive usage (so that customers didn't automatically associate all iTV apps with advertising).

2) Clearly articulated value-propositions to the customer for RFIs that require opting-in to receive more info or be contacted about a product/service (the classic "what's my motivation?" question).

And lastly,

3) Keeping it Simple for the Sake of Scale: We finally stopped trying to get too fancy with the iTV applications out of the gate. We learned our lesson that "fancy" delayed the path to full-footprint deployment, and hampered the speed of adoption and usage.



The iTV Doctor is *Rick Howe*, who provides interactive television consulting services to programmers and advertisers. He is the recipient of a CTAM Tami Award for retention marketing and this year was nominated to Cable Pioneers. He is also the co-author of a patent for the use of multiscreen mosaics in EPG's. Endorsed by top cable and satellite distributors, "Dr" Howe still makes house calls, and the first visit is always free. His services include product development, distribution strategy and the development of low-cost interactive applications for rapid deployment across all platforms. Have a question for the iTV Doctor? Email him at *

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