The iTV Doctor Is In! Let's PlayAlong with Visiware

Dear Readers:

For quite a while now, we've been watching Visiware grow and expand the television games world in Europe, along with a couple of forays into the US, notably at Time Warner Cable and Dish Network. But a recent announcement for their "PlayAlong" platform grabbed our interest (enamored as we are for companion device-based interactive television), so we reached out to our friend Laurant Weill, Visiware's founder and executive chairman. Here's what Laurant had to say:

iTV Doctor: Laurant, we read your recent press release about "PlayAlong," your new technology to make television shows interactive. What's that all about?

Weill: PlayAlong allows the creation of a new generation of television. TV viewers can now participate in shows from home simultaneously, using their computer, smartphone or digital tablet. Thanks to Amazon's Cloud Computing solution, our technology is robust, reliable and supports hundreds of thousands of players at the same time. It is exciting to interact at last, to see live feedback from other viewers, to share online. Apart from games, we are expanding the PlayAlong concept for sports programs, interactive advertising and live political debates.

iTV Doctor: Which operators are using it?

Weill: In seven months with the Endemol show "Money Drop," we deployed the solution in seven countries, including the USA, Spain, Germany and France, with Antena3, ZDF, TF1, SBS6 and TV2. We already have run 240 shows live and supplied 8.5 million games.

Some nights we are operating three shows at the same time around the globe. Endemol is doing a great job really, they are at the forefront of the interactivity and took the risk to be the pioneer.

iTV Doctor: Can you give us a few examples the consumer applications? Can you manage massively multiplayer experiences? In other words, could everybody watching the Super Bowl play along?

Weill: TV game shows are an obvious application; playing from home against the contestants and online players is really fun. Simultaneously you earn badges, compete with you friends and chat. A truly social TV experience.

60% of TV viewers are doing a digital activity while watching TV--with their laptop, tablet or smartphone.

We have terrific concepts for NFL, NBA and MLB games. Our platform is made for massive audience and synch. events.

iTV Doctor: What are the benefits to operators, networks and consumers?

Weill: PlayAlong benefits are many:

For the players: to be able to participate at the same time using various platforms, while enriching the program and promoting the creation of communities and generating Internet buzz.

For TV viewers: to watch the action and receive answers and statistics in real time online and on air. For example: "Blondes are faster than brunettes" or "Denver is better with football questions than Los Angeles."

For producers and channels: to have access to a new source of income. Endemol is very successful with big sponsors, such as P&G, bwin, lotteries and more.

With the PlayAlong application, we also provide a PlayAnytime version. On TF1 for example, revenues are generated by hundreds of thousands of PAY games between shows while the PlayAlong is free. We also provide Facebook and mini-site versions using our massive multiplayer www.playinstar.com platform.

iTV Doctor: This is the kind of multi-screen (or multi-platform) work that is very much in vogue now. Everybody (and I mean EVERYBODY) is working out the technical logistics for connecting handheld devices to linear programming delivered by cable, satellite and telco operators. What does "PlayAlong" do that the other solutions don't?

Weill: Correct, it is like sex in high school: Everyone is talking about it, not many are actually doing it, and very few are doing it well. The critical issues are reliability, scalability and creating concepts that really bring a good, not to say addictive experience for the users. Our technology, games and backoffice tools are made to be very robust and delivered on time. This is the essence of this industry. It is not a classical Web architecture as we need to provide those massive responses in that short amount of time. Thanks to the experience we now have and the fact that every day we amortize our dev. costs, we may offer the solution very cheap. PlayAlong is a revenue-generator, not a cost-center.

iTV Doctor: OK--here's the zillion-dollar question: will this play in the States?

Weill: Yes, we already did a first trial on Fox in primetime, and more projects will come this year.

iTV Doctor: Who are you talking to in the States? Any early reactions?

Weill: We are just starting. Do not forget that this is very new--only seven months old really--and 14 months in the making. We are talking to TV producers, advertisers and sports content owners. I see us providing the pencils and brushes, and our partners are doing the creative drawings. We also provide best practices and interactive game expertise. The first reactions are just awesome: after our demos, the creative and biz people understand the potential of it. I truly believe that most mainstream TV shows will all have their PlayAlong within two or three years.

iTV Doctor: Will we see you at the TVOT NYC Intensive conference on December 5th?

Weill: Sure, I wouldn't miss it!

 

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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 itvdoctor@itvt.com

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