Interactive TV News Round-Up (X): Two Way Media, Ustream, Verismo, Verizon FiOS TV, VideoClix, Vimeo, Virgin Media (TiVo) Widevine (Google), Yahoo!, YouTube, YouView, ZillionTV

[itvt]'s daily news coverage went on hiatus October 18th in order to allow our editorial staff to work full time on TVOT NYC Intensive. This issue contains a round-up of some of the major interactive TV-related news stories that have broken since then. Due to the volume of news we are covering in this issue, our summaries of each item are somewhat more abbreviated than usual (note: extensive background information on most of the companies and technologies covered in this issue can be found by using itvt.com's search functionality). We apologize for any inconvenience to our readers.

  • Two Way Media has announced that it has teamed with talkbackTHAMES digital to launch two new games on Virgin Media's red-button interactive TV platform, based on the FremantleMedia brands, "Family Fortunes" and "The X Factor." The company has also announced that it will launch a new game based on the reality show, "Undercover Boss." It says that the game "is being presented for distribution on a broad spectrum of sites, from TV broadcast carriers of the show to specialist Web games destinations."
  • Ustream has announced two new tools: 1) Ustream Open Pay-Per-View, which it says "will allow any Ustream broadcaster to apply directly to Ustream for the ability to charge viewers for content." Once a broadcaster is approved for the program, the company says, "they will be able to monetize their content via PayPal payments." 2) Ad-Free Broadcasting, which the company says will allow users of its service to "quickly offer their viewers an ad-free viewing experience during their stream."
  • OTT specialist, Verismo, has unveiled the next generation of its flagship VuNow plaform. "Traditional or emerging MSO's, Internet Service Providers, and telco's can now enhance current services by offering linear channels, combined with best-in-class over-the-top (OTT) Internet videos, video-on-demand (VOD), and live channels from around the world," the company states in its press materials. "The new platform also brings social networking applications like Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace right to the television for the entire family to enjoy socially. Personal media is easily accessed over the home network or by connecting a USB drive. In addition, the Verismo platform supports Digital Rights Management (DRM), Electronic Program Guides (EPG) and is capable of providing VoIP, Internet access with a built-in broadband router, and whole-house DVR." Verismo has also announced that it has just raised $17 million in new funding in a round that was led by Intel Capital, with participation from existing Verismo seed investors.
  • Verizon FiOS TV has launched a service, called Flex View, which allows its customers to purchase or rent a selection of FiOS TV VOD movies (and shortly, the company promises, TV shows) on--and between--their home TV's, PC's or mobiles. According to the company, the service currently offers 1,400 titles, will offer 2,000 titles by year's end, and is expected to offer triple that next year. Verizon has also just launched a Flex View Facebook app. Other recent news from Verizon includes: 1) The availability of FiOS Mobile Remote, an application that allows FiOS TV HD customers to use smartphones as remote controls, for the iPhone and iPod. 2) The launch of a 3D VOD service from Avail-TVN. 3) The launch of SnagFilms, a VOD service devoted to documentary films. 4) The launch of an iPad app that offers live video from NFL games. 5) The updating of its Twitter widget, with various new features including the ability to retweet.
  • Interactive video specialist, VideoClix, contacted [itvt] last month to let us know that it has created a series of clickable videos for the Disney-ABC show, "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." The videos can be seen here.
  • Vimeo has launched Vimeo Couch Mode, a TV-optimized ("leanback") version of its broadband video service, designed for users of Google TV and other OTT platforms. It is accessed at http://vimeo.com/couchmode.
  • Virgin Media has unveiled details of its new Virgin Media TV Powered by TiVo platform, which is scheduled to launch later this month. "The new service will lead a much-anticipated revolution in the way people find and enjoy their favorite content," the company states in its press materials. "An easy-to-use graphical interface will combine the live TV schedule with catch-up TV, a huge library of on-demand programming and popular Web-based applications, alongside a market-leading personal video recorder." Virgin has also: 1) secured a deal with Channel 5 Broadcasting to bring the latter's Demand Five catch-up service to its TV, online and mobile VOD platforms; and 2) secured a deal with NBC Universal International Television Distribution for the UK VOD rights (on TV, online and mobile) to a range of NBCU series.
  • Content protection and video optimization specialist, Widevine, has been acquired by Google. The company has also recently secured new deals with Panasonic and DIVA.
  • Yahoo! has announced that it is expanding its Connected TV Widget Developer Program to provide developers with the opportunity to create "Paid TV Widgets" that can be offered in a Yahoo! Connected TV Store slated to launch in March, 2011. "Paid TV Widget pricing will be set by developers for a one-time purchase between $0.99 and $99.00," the company states in its press materials. "Yahoo! will handle payment processing for the Paid TV Widgets, providing consumers a simple interface to purchase the applications. Yahoo! will deliver payments to developers, based on a revenue share of 70% of the purchase price. The Paid TV Widget developer program is initially open to developers and publishers in the US, UK, Germany, Spain, Sweden, France, Canada and Australia. We anticipate expanding the program to developers in additional markets in the future." Yahoo! has also announced an extended partnership with Samsung to deliver Yahoo! Connected TV in 26 new countries across Europe, on Samsung LED, LCD and plasma TV's equipped with Samsung's Internet@TV service.
  • YouTube has announced a number of updates to its interactive Annotations feature. "We currently have close to 100 million individual annotations in the system and the rate of publishing is growing," the company states on its corporate blog. "One in five YouTube video views shows annotations and many of these are clickable. Annotations have been an effective mechanism for content discovery and cross promotion with some creators getting as much as 20% of their views from annotation links placed in videos. Today, we're happy to announce some important improvements to annotations: 1) A brand new annotation editor--based on user feedback, we overhauled the annotation editor and moved most of the functionality to a new side panel to streamline annotation creation, editing and deletion while leaving the player less cluttered. 2) New annotation type--'Title'--title annotations enable overlaying headlines, videos titles, credits and other 'big text' on top of your video, just like you would with professional video editing tools. 3) New font size options--you can now select from a combined set of six font sizes. 4) New color options--annotations are now available in 16 background colors and 14 font colors.
  • YouView (formerly, Project Canvas)--an initiative that sees 1) the BBC and UK public-service broadcasters, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, 2) UK ISP's, BT and TalkTalk, and 3) UK broadcast transmission company, Arqiva, partnering in order to attempt to develop a common standard and interface for the delivery of online catch-up services such as the BBC iPlayer, the ITV player and 4oD, as well as other Internet-based services (including VOD and interactive TV widgets), to broadband-connected Freeview and Freesat set-top boxes--has: 1) received a green light from UK communications regulator, Ofcom; 2) announced its agency line-up; 3) invited expressions of interest from "content providers, looking to make their content available on the open Internet-connected TV environment"; and 4) announced various changes to its operations and technology teams, including the resignation of Anthony Rose as CTO. The initiative is reported to be in "early-stage talks" with several Hollywood studios; BT and TalkTalk have both confirmed plans to begin offering YouView products as early as next year; and Channel 4 plans to invest £2 million to prepare for YouView.
  • ZillionTV, which was attempting to launch an ad-supported broadband video service, has ceased operations and its backers are now trying to sell its assets, according to an article by Mike Reynolds in Multichannel News.