The iTV Doctor Is In!: Can FLX Systems Deliver Jennifer Aniston's Sweater?

Dear Readers: I was chatting with my friend Jennifer Aniston the other day--kidding her about her sweater.

She said, "It drives me nuts! All you TV people, all the time. Jennifer Aniston's sweater this and Jennifer Aniston's sweater that. I don't even have the damn sweater anymore!"

Of course, this was Jennifer Aniston from Brooklyn Heights. She's a barista at a midtown Starbucks. Not that other one.

But she had a good point. Our industry has been trying to sell Jennifer Aniston's sweater to TV viewers for over a decade. It SHOULD be simple: watch the show, touch the item on the screen, buy the item. But we just haven't made it happen.

We have the right devices. We have tons of content. We have (more than enough) e-commerce platforms. But what we don't have--what we've never figured out--is a way for the VIEWER to briefly exercise her CONSUMER impulse without interfering with the viewing experience.

Until now. After the TVOT Show in New York, a friend introduced me to John Thompson, president of FLX Systems. FLX has figured it out with their CRC (Consumer Requested Content) platform that is specifically designed for OTT platforms and services. Here's what John had to say.

iTV Doctor: John, you are entering a space that is littered with the bones of failed e-commerce companies. What is CRC?

ohn Thompson: The Consumer Requested Content (CRC) technology is a multilayer application technology that is designed to provide the consumer on-­‐demand access to information about products being used in the show, movie, or videos they are watching. And while this concept is nothing new, we were able to design our technology so it could be easily integrated into any existing or new OTT platform using either a licensed or proprietary player. The CRC technology is also unique in its approach to provide value to the consumer, the advertiser, and the network that is looking for more effective ways to monetize their content.

iTV Doctor: How does CRC work for the consumer?

John Thompson: The CRC technology provides on-demand access to information about the products that are being used in the show they are watching. The technology is activated when the consumer clicks an icon or pushes the enter button on their remote, and the system will pause the show and automatically loads a product portfolio page where they are provided access to a product-overview video and other important product information.

We conducted extensive research to make sure the product portfolio page provided the consumer access to the information necessary to make a confident buying decision. This included: • Product videos focused on the features and benefits of the product.

  • How to use/install product videos produced to improve the consumer's experience.
  • Product rating and reviews from like minded consumers.
  • Access to special pricing, incentives, coupons, or discounts to any offered by manufacturer and retailer.
  • The ability to buy now or make a quick purchase from reputable source.

It was critical that we kept the consumer's viewing experience front and center, so the technology will allow the consumer to exit the product portfolio page at any time and resume watching the video, show or movie from the point it was paused. Or the consumer can elect not to interrupt their show and access the product information at the end of the show.

Here is a link to a video of CRC at work:

iTV Doctor: And how is that different from other e-commerce applications on the market?

John Thompson: The CRC technology allows consumers the opportunity to instantly access information about products or services when their interest or curiosity are stimulated. We have all had those moments when we say, "That is cool!" or "What is that?" The technology allows the manufacturer or advertiser the opportunity to tell their product story when the consumer is emotionally engaged and their interest is at its peak.

In consumer interviews we learned that it is quite common for a consumer's interest or curiosity about a product to stimulated multiple times when watching video content, especially if that content is related to a hobby, passion or lifestyle. The CRC Technology fulfills the consumer's desire to learn through on-demand access to information, and it provides the advertiser a qualified connection to a prospect.

iTV Doctor: OK --easy and intuitive for the consumer. Let's talk about the content you are enhancing with CRC. Programming? Advertising?

John Thompson: We knew that for the CRC technology to be successful we would have to go beyond the traditional mindset and create something that changed the way we all look at advertising--maybe even to the point that the technology is not advertising-centric but more about product education and information. We learned that we were meeting this expectation when we conducted the usability testing with consumers and learned that 97% of the participants did not view the CRC as advertising, but rather as an added value to their subscription fees. If positioned correctly, the CRC will not only provide a revenue source for the OTT networks but also enhance the perceived value of the programming.

The brands or advertisers also benefit from the this new approach to product marketing, which opens the door to whole new level of consumer interaction for advertisers. Even with the advancement of intelligent ad placement, the consumers' low tolerance for advertising makes it difficult to effectively engage with their targeted consumer. CRC technology allows the advertiser to engage with the consumer on their terms and at a point when they are emotionally engaged with the advertiser's product. And rather than feeding the consumer a 30-second spot, there is an opportunity to tell their product story in a way that is meaningful and impactful to the consumer. And most importantly they can take this opportunity to convert the consumer's interest into a transaction.

iTV Doctor: Is there concern that the on-demand feature will dramatically lower impressions and the advertiser's visibility?

John Thompson: I think advertisers and their media agencies will need to adjust how they evaluate media buys on OTT platforms, specifically with CRC technology. It is simply a quality-over-quantity discussion. Unlike television impressions, which are very speculative, measuring number of impressions with the CRC technology will be very precise and therefore lower than traditional television. What the CRC technology provides goes beyond a typical impression by allowing the advertiser an opportunity to tell their product story to a consumer who is emotionally engaged with their product, and then immediately convert the brand conversation into a transaction.

The technology also captures key consumer data such as who inquired about a product. Then a consumer profile based on product inquiry history will be generated. This data will be available real-­‐time so advertisers can immediately follow up with interested consumers.

So will the impressions be lower? Certainly, but the impact of each impression has never been so powerful.

iTV Doctor: Let's talk about the programming side. Why is CRC important for content owners, networks and distributors?

John Thompson: It's no secret the way consumers access entertainment content has changed dramatically in recent years, so providers of entertainment content, big and small, are working to position their business model to strive in an OTT market place. The challenge is: how do they do this with consumers becoming more sensitive to subscription pricing and very low tolerance for commercial interruptions?

The CRC technology offers the networks and content distributors a way to deliver their subscribers a commercial-free viewing experience, maximizing the opportunity to yield higher subscriber fees, without sacrificing the revenues from advertising sales.

When we developed the CRC technology, we understood how important it was to provide the OTT network marketplace a product or asset that would lure the advertising community to this unexplored and unproven media platform. The CRC technology brings a marketable product that delivers huge value to the network's advertising customers. It allows advertisers to capitalize on the billions of dollars they spend every year on in-show product placement and sponsorships, engage consumers on a whole new level, and provides real-time delivery of consumer intelligence never before available with traditional television advertising.

iTV Doctor: OK--let's get under the hood. How does the backend work?

John Thompson: When we started the development of the CRC technology, there were several quality OTT platforms in the market place utilizing a variety of off-the-shelf and custom-built video players. In order to have an opportunity to serve the entire OTT video industry, we packaged the technology as a player plugin module that could be easily integrated into any new or existing OTT platform.

Without getting too technical, the CRC's patented process occurs as the video, show or movie the consumer selected gets loaded up into the video player. During the onload process our code uses the video content selected by the consumer in conjunction with the content provider's identifier to deliver an array of information, such as time-coded placement of the call-to-action message and the product identifier, in order to assure the consumer is directed to the appropriate product portfolio page. The CRC technology will simultaneously load and correctly place all the graphic overlays for each product featured in the show without the consumer realizing any delay in the load time of their selected content.

CRC technology's Ad Insertion Management System allows the video distribution network to manage the product-placement ads outside their server environment, which maintains the security and integrity of their content library. This configuration also provides the distribution network the flexibility to make on-the-fly updates to what in-show products are available for consumer interaction.

The backend management system also provides advertisers secure access to their product portfolio page, where they can make immediate updates to the video content and product specifications, and enter rebates or product incentives. This provides advertisers with the flexibility to tweak their messaging and content to assure they maximize their opportunity with the interested consumer.

iTV Doctor: Here's the hard part. What happens then?

John Thompson: When the viewer selects the CRC product icon or call-to-action, the player plug-in module pauses the show and connects the viewer to the product portfolio page. Since the system offers the advertiser the flexibility to have multiple product portfolio page destinations based on the target audience, the system will utilize a series of unique IDs to assure the consumer is delivered to the correct product portfolio page.

Once the consumer is delivered to the product portfolio page, the product overview video will begin to play but the consumer has the freedom to at anytime access other features of the system, such as read product reviews, watch additional demonstration videos, view available manufacturer and retailer discounts and rebates, and finally they can select the "buy now" button where they can place an order through a reputable retailer. The consumer will have the ability to save this product to their favorites so they can easily access it at a later time.

At any point the consumer can exit out of the product portfolio page and the system will signal the video player to resume playing the show from the point the consumer left it.

The technology will also have the capability to gather the consumer's name and corresponding contact information from the network's database and pass it along to the CRC back-­end management system. If this feature is implemented, the CRC system will be able to provide the advertiser and the network access to valuable consumer intelligence, For example we will be able to provide an advertiser the name and contact information for every consumer that visits their product portfolio page, along with what pages they viewed. This data can be delivered real-time so the advertiser can maintain a brand conversation with the engaged consumer.

iTV Doctor: Is this something that will be available to industry sooner than later?

John Thompson: The technology is fully functional and we are in the process of implementing a proof-of-concept on a published OTT platform. We expect this to be completed by mid March.

iTV Doctor: I know you are at NATPE this week; will we see you at the TVOT San Francisco show, June 21/22?

John Thompson: Absolutely!

iTV Doctor: And in the meantime, how can our readers reach you?

John Thompson:

The iTV Doctor is Rick Howe, who provides interactive video consulting services to programmers, advertisers and technology providers. He is the recipient of a CTAM Tami Award for retention marketing and this year was inducted into The 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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