The iTV Doctor

The iTV Doctor is InThe 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.

Questions: itvdoctor@itvt.com
@rickhowe

  • Dear Readers:     The television and entertainment industry is flush with news and opinion stories appearing daily, often hourly, on OTT and its impact on the business.   Today I'm going to dispense with the Over The Top (OTT) label and call it for what it really is: Television.   Witness some of the recent announcements and trends:   1) A+E...
    July 28, 2015 - 8:07pm
  •   Dear Readers:    At TVOT 2014 San Francisco, we had an all-star cast of panelists at our Virtual MSO panel: Sherry Brennan from Fox Networks; Mick Darling from Tomorrowish; Paul Johnson from MPP Global; Adam Lowy from Dish Network; Tom Morgan from Net2TV; Eric Fitzgerald Reed from Verizon; and Eduard Zaslavsky from WebTuner    During that June, 2014...
    June 9, 2015 - 11:34pm
  • Dear Readers:    At TVOT 2014 San Francisco, we had an all-star cast of panelists at our Virtual MSO panel: Sherry Brennan from Fox Networks; Mick Darling from Tomorrowish; Paul Johnson from MPP Global; Adam Lowy from Dish Network; Tom Morgan from Net2TV; Eric Fitzgerald Reed from Verizon; and Eduard Zaslavsky from WebTuner    During that June, 2014 session, I...
    May 13, 2015 - 9:26pm
  • Dear iTV Doctor:   I need your help. I'm watching my competitors launch direct-to-consumer channels online. I have a library of content just sitting around gathering dust. And my ad revenues are shrinking as viewers are cutting the cords with my distribution partners. The old business models just don't work anymore.   Lagging in Los Angeles.     Dear...
    April 6, 2015 - 8:25pm
  • Dear Readers: I was talking to a senior programming exec. from one of the network families the other day, and he was bemoaning the disconnect between his enormous library of content, and his ability to monetize it. He said, "I'm like an independent farmer--land rich and cash poor. I have a gigantic library of content, and the only way I can make money is to license it through the cable...
    March 16, 2015 - 11:01pm
  • Dear Readers:   In the annals of Interactive Television Aspirations, three user experiences always come up: Jennifer Aniston's Sweater, Pizza and Travel. And in the past decade, I (like many of my readers) have tried my hand at each of those.   While we are usually able to create the "front end" of the experience, whether on a first or second screen, it always...
    February 23, 2015 - 9:51pm
  • Dear Readers: It was 1984, and I had just purchased a Honda Civic Wagon (which looked kinda like a tiny space shuttle). The dealer had a promotion which added a brand new, snazzy Sony Watchman TV: GIANT 2" black-and-white screen, and could receive all broadcast stations in a handy pocket-sized battery-powered unit. What I didn't expect is that, on my daily train ride to and from...
    February 8, 2015 - 11:11pm
  • Dear Readers: As some of you know, the good doctor sometimes puts on the red velvet suit for local community groups. Done it for years. And just for grins, I thought I share a few observations from behind the beard. In our family we have ongoing debates on the commercialization of Christmas. My wife takes the position that all the good that is done at Christmas--donations, food drives, helping...
    December 22, 2014 - 11:24am
  • Dear Readers: This is the season of OTT. To paraphrase Harry Nilsson: "Everybody's talking about it. I hear every word they're saying." And in another 24 months, all this talk will simply be the "echoes of my mind." Why? Because EVERYBODY'S GOING OVER THE TOP! The "analysts" get tied up trying to compare pricing models for the likes of HBO and Netflix,...
    November 16, 2014 - 10:14pm
  • Dear Readers: It's been a wild and wooly few weeks since we last talked, and the OTT provider segment is getting crowded. It seems that every television network family has either announced their plans, or is waiting for the right time, along with every service provider. And I expect the content producers and studios won't be far behind. HBO, CBS, Dish, Verizon, YouTube (YouTube?) and...
    November 4, 2014 - 10:01pm
  • Dear Readers: As promised in our last column, we're going to take a look at one of the creative and design shops that is creating the Over The Top experience in Europe and the UK: Ostmodern. I find it fascinating when speaking with my friends in the industry that, to a person, they all think of television as PERSONAL. There are few products in our lives about which we have such skewed...
    October 6, 2014 - 9:52pm
  • Dear Readers: My father was a brilliant chemical and mechanical engineer. When he bought a new 1964 Pontiac GTO, he was so curious about the engine that he took it apart and laid the pieces out on the garage floor. And when he put it back together, he didn't have any parts left over (a skill I never mastered...). But one thing Dad always talked about was the primary operating philosophy of...
    September 15, 2014 - 8:40pm
  • Dear Readers: At the TVOT 2014 conference in June in San Francisco, Over-The-Top delivery of pay-TV was THE topic of conversation. My "Virtual MSO" panel was packed, and one of our panelists (Paul Johnson from MPP Global) talked about their work with BSkyB's "NOW TV" OTT service in the UK. Here is a link to the video of that session: http://www.itvt.com/story/10200/...
    August 12, 2014 - 11:55am
  • Dear Readers: We all talk (some of us more than others, according to my wife), and most of us listen (same comment applies…). And in the advanced television business LISTENING to video turns out to be particularly challenging. Automatic Content Recognition companies have sprung up and then sprung leaks. Their core business has been somewhat commoditized, and everybody is looking for...
    May 29, 2014 - 11:26pm
  • Dear Readers: Everybody is racing to get into the OTT game: "traditional" service providers, television networks and third-party aggregators and marketers. And here is a shameless plug: if you want to know more, come to the good doctor's "Virtual MSO" panel on June 11 at TVOT San Francisco. And while the delivery of video OTT presents some challenges, and the licensing...
    May 21, 2014 - 9:57pm
  • Dear Readers: Television is changing, and it will never be the same again (how many times have we heard THAT?). But this time it might be real. By the end of the year we expect to see two or three major distributors offering some form of virtual MSO subscription service: Dish Network, with their ABC/Disney/ESPN package; Verizon, powered by Intel's OnCue platform; and one other--possibly...
    April 2, 2014 - 7:19pm
  • Dear Readers: As we enter 2014, the folks who are looking to increase viewership of their video content are finding the task is rapidly increasing in complexity and cost. The studios and networks are stretching their budgets to create television programming that attracts and keeps the audience anytime, anywhere. And some of them are starting to realize that keeping the viewers CONNECTED to the...
    January 16, 2014 - 10:15pm
  • Dear Readers: We've been watching with interest the developments in the second-screen space. Consolidation and re-invention have generated the most headlines in 2013; growth and revenue somewhat less so. It's a tough space, and I dare say that all the second-screen providers are consulting their Ouija boards to map out the next few years. At the TVOT conference in New York on December...
    December 2, 2013 - 10:23pm
  • Dear Readers: As our business expands at light-speed, and viewers' options increase at a multiple thereof, it is insanely difficult for a television network to attract viewers. That's why I was intrigued when I recently sat down briefly with Jeremy Toeman, CEO of Dijit Media. Jeremy has developed an exciting and unique tool for networks to capture viewers on their Web site, and...
    November 6, 2013 - 10:10pm
  • Dear Readers: Dontcha just love Fall? Football's cranking up, baseball is into the post-season, and the traditional new TV season has just begun. And with the new season comes innovation in the interactive television arena.   I had a chance to sample some of that innovation this past Sunday night: "Modern Family Live" on USA Network, powered by the good people at iPowow. It...
    October 9, 2013 - 10:19pm
  • Dear Readers: Today we have a treat--a guest commentary from Thomas Engdahl, CEO of Magic Ruby: Does History Repeat Itself?: The Second Coming of Television Interaction. Over the past few years, there has been a lot of conversation regarding television interactivity. Often, the conversation in the press or at conferences questions the willingness of television audiences to interact with TV...
    September 4, 2013 - 9:15pm
  • Dear Readers: I was having dinner with my wife and her long-lost cousin this week, and he asked me if I was still working in "Cable TV." I kinda hemmed and hawed, because I always find it difficult to explain to civilians exactly what I do--hell, it's difficult to explain to my FAMILY what I do. So I said something inane about social media and second screens and television. And...
    August 21, 2013 - 9:36pm
  • Dear Readers: Most of us use Twitter for quick news, updates and the occasional guilty pleasure. And the folks in the content-creation and content-distribution worlds are finding that Twitter is an increasingly efficient way to distribute enhancements for television viewing. Last year, Twitter announced their plans to standardize some of that activity with Twitter "cards" with a...
    June 2, 2013 - 11:22pm
  • Dear Readers: About a year ago I interviewed Viggle president Chris Stephenson (http://www.itvt.com/itv_doctor/9069/itv-doctor-interview-viggle-president-chris-stephenson). With some colorful commentary by Jonathan Bokor (now SVP/director of advanced media at Starcom MediaVest Group), we attempted to drill down into the business model behind Viggle Rewards. I admit I am a HUGE fan of Viggle...
    April 28, 2013 - 8:56pm
  • Dear Readers: As we watch the rapid consolidation in the second-screen space, we have seen the inevitable rise of Twitter as a tool for enhanced and interactive television. And the explosion of TV Everywhere has added fuel to the fire. Virtually every content provider is using Twitter to engage viewers in what we now call "Social TV," and Twitter is poised to become a truly universal...
    March 31, 2013 - 9:29pm
  • Dear Readers:   We're going to have a little fun today, going Back To The Future (Again). Three years ago we published a column that many friends contributed to. The set-up was this: "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...
    December 18, 2012 - 8:04pm
  • Dear Readers: I had an opportunity to do some "man on the street" interviews this past weekend at our local fall festival. The topic was multiscreen television. Those of us in the business understand both the clear concept and the much-less-clear reality of multiscreen television. But our friend Mr. Man on the Street tends to have a very personal relationship with television, as...
    October 11, 2012 - 11:36pm
  • Dear Readers: I walked into my office this morning and saw somebody riding a bicycle through a village--apparently in Japan. Then I heard a sound to my left and turned towards it. There was a storefront--a florist--with customers, and a bird chirping. From behind me I hear water dripping and turn around to encounter a young woman dipping a drink from a bamboo spout--it reminded me of the scene...
    September 25, 2012 - 5:28pm
  • Dear iTV Doctor: I read your columns about the necessity for second-screen providers to connect to operators' set-top boxes, and I'm a believer! Making that initial connection through the box, and then tracking the program with ACR (Automatic Content Recognition) is clearly the way to go. But I've just looked at one operator's Web site and seen the number of set-top boxes I have...
    September 18, 2012 - 9:17pm
  • Dear Readers: In my first column about Second Screens and The Olympics, I posed the question about "cause-and-effect" in the second-screen world: "I saw some Twitter data that showed spikes at specific times during the Friday night Olympic opening ceremonies. And then I got some audience trending data for NBC that SUGGESTS a cause-and-effect between social media and real-time...
    September 4, 2012 - 10:37pm
  • Dear Readers: I intended to write this wrap-up column on Second Screens and the Olympics on Monday. But the events of Saturday morning suggested to me that a preface was in order. Let me also say that, in additional to being a baseball junkie, I am a news junkie. And my college journalism mentor is never far from my shoulder.   Mitt Romney announced on Friday that he would be announcing...
    August 16, 2012 - 4:25am
  • Dear Readers: We got some feed back from last week's column, particularly my comments about the future of ACR: While most agreed that set-top box (STB) sync is coming quickly, and has some distinct advantages, it appears that a combination of STB sync and ACR might actually deliver the best experience. Dan Eakins, CEO of Zeitera (an ACR technology provider) wrote, "I think the...
    August 7, 2012 - 11:22pm
  • Dear Readers: I thought Shazam was nuts to make their first big second-screen play in the US at the Super Bowl (but they pulled it off). But neither I nor anybody else in the second-screen space truly understood the concept of "insane" until this past weekend, with the Olympics. We had (at last count) eight different NBC-owned channels, 10 different second-screen platforms, and at...
    July 30, 2012 - 11:31pm
  • Dear Readers: The ACTIVITY in the second-screen interactive television space is exploding. But, as with all fast-growing technology, the BUSINESS of second-screen interactive television has some open questions. The following interview asks some of those questions, a few of which remain unanswered. So we will continue the conversation at The TV of Tomorrow Show (June 12th-13th in San Francisco...
    May 6, 2012 - 10:16pm
  • Dear Readers: I have a friend who is a skydiver. And while I occasionally doubt her sanity for engaging in such a risky pursuit, she tells me that virtually all skydiving deaths are caused by a cascading series of bad decisions. In skydiving you can survive one bad decision: failing to check and properly calculate wind speeds and directions. You might even survive a second bad decision: going...
    March 28, 2012 - 11:19pm
  • Dear Readers: When Canoe Ventures decided to close down their iTV operation and concentrate on dynamic ad insertion for VOD, they made a decision to throw iTV advertising development and deployment back into the hands of the individual operators and programmers. That was probably the only reasonable business decision for the Canoe partners, given the slow pace of adoption of single-screen iTV...
    March 13, 2012 - 10:22pm
  • Dear iTV Doctor: I am in video services management, and I have to deal with (literally) millions of pieces content: linear, VOD and even YouTube! Everyone from Marketing to Customer Care is screaming at me that we need to be more like Netflix and Amazon--video recommendations based on what you watch. Of course, our programming network partners want the viewers to "discover" THEIR...
    March 6, 2012 - 8:55pm
  • Dear Readers: As promised, this week's column is a review of second-screen (iPhone) apps that complemented the February 26th Academy Awards broadcast on ABC. We'll be looking at Shazam, Miso, Viggle and ABC's in-house iPhone experience. The overall domestic Oscar audience was pegged at 38 million viewers, significantly less than the 44 million viewers for the Grammys, and only...
    February 27, 2012 - 10:44pm
  • Dear Readers: When I started on this column last week, we hoped to publish it on Monday night (for a Tuesday morning audience).  Because of the heavy news load on Monday and again on Tuesday, we're now publishing on Wednesday night--just after the news about Canoe surfaced. In a press announcement today, newly appointed Canoe CEO Joel Hassell said, "Canoe will conclude its...
    February 22, 2012 - 7:03pm
  • Dear Readers: Last week we looked at the iPhone apps that Shazam did for the 111 million viewers of the Super Bowl. This week we'll look at more iPhone providers for a slightly smaller (44 million viewers) audience: the Grammys that aired on CBS Sunday, February 12th. We'll take a look at the work of GetGlue, IntoNow, Miso, Shazam and Viggle. First, a disclaimer. I watched the Grammys...
    February 13, 2012 - 10:15pm
  • Dear Readers: Didja happen to catch the following image in the Best Buy ad during Sunday's Super Bowl? The interactive television sands have just shifted under our feet, all because of the folks at Shazam. They enabled ads from the likes of Toyota, Cars.com, Pepsi, Best Buy and others to engage viewers in a true interactive television experience. During THE SUPER BOWL! Which,...
    February 6, 2012 - 9:11pm
  • Dear Readers: Last spring I moderated a TV of Tomorrow Show panel on Automatic Content Recognition (ACR). We had a number of up-and-coming companies represented, and a few of them have done quite well. Of course, the company with the fastest start was IntoNow, represented by founder and CEO Adam Cahan. IntoNow arrived at TVOT fresh from announcing their acquisition by Yahoo!, and that...
    November 14, 2011 - 12:46am
  • Dear Readers: Back in the day (yeah, I know--the LAST century), an advertiser would pay for an ad to run in a given program at a given time, and pretty much that's how it happened. We had the occasional make-good, but for the most part, it worked. Pretty simple stuff.             But now, with advanced and interactive advertising, there are a lot...
    October 26, 2011 - 11:17pm
  • Dear Readers: The good doctor just returned from the CTAM Summit (hereafter to be called simply "CTAM") in New York. Great show, with an odd attendance pattern (people working in town simply dropped in for sessions they were interested in), but a few terrific sessions. And for those who don't remember (or never knew) what CTAM stands for, I'll repeat a quote from a CTAM...
    October 10, 2011 - 10:02pm
  • Dear Readers: Most of the folks in the industry owe a debt of gratitude to the groundbreaking interactive television work done by DISH Network. We've spoken to most of the key DISH interactive TV folks in the past few months (except for the elusive Scott Higgins), and today we get to speak with the guy who had responsibility for iTV revenue at DISH. Michael Finn has a long and broad-...
    September 18, 2011 - 9:31pm
  • 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...
    September 5, 2011 - 11:02pm
  • Dear Readers: The recent victory of Japan in the Women's World Cup, and the recent exercise of journalistic hubris (not to mention lack of ethics) in London, started me thinking about the rapidly accelerating handheld technology (led, of course, by Japan) and the security of handheld devices. As we all know, and generally refuse to admit, our cell phones are not secure. Our calls, our...
    July 25, 2011 - 10:47pm
  • Dear Readers: In our last column, we talked about a simple and effective way for cable operators to use their existing technology to link the programming they deliver on television to an appropriate interactive user experience on a companion device. And the reaction from our readers has been terrific. We'll provide an update on that project in another column. Today's column is sort of...
    July 10, 2011 - 9:20pm
  • Dear Readers: Yeah, I know. EBIF doesn't need saving. It's moving forwards, the cable operators and Canoe are amassing a significant national network of connected homes. Early deployments are showing great results, and the advertising community is paying attention. And then in a single announcement this week in Cannes, Microsoft announces voice and gesture control of Xbox Live...
    June 26, 2011 - 9:30pm
  • Dear iTV Doctor: I just returned from a most excellent TV of Tomorrow Show (in fact, it was the best yet!). And it seems the interactive television world is dividing itself into the "set-top box" folks, and the "companion device" folks. And while I understand that a programmer or advertiser probably needs to use both (or ALL) platforms, isn't it just plain easier to...
    May 30, 2011 - 9:41pm
  • Dear Readers: This week we'll attempt to solve one of the great enigmas of our industry: Who is Mike Bloxham, what in the world has he been talking about for the last few years, and what is he doing now? I've known Mike for nearly a decade, going back to when we worked together on a UK-based product named iSeeTV (yes, everybody confused that with ICTV). And, speaking of confusion with...
    April 24, 2011 - 11:34pm
  • Dear Readers: I was on my way up to New York the other day for Craig Leddy's terrific "Cable Interacts" event, run in conjunction with the NYC Chapter of CTAM. And on the way, I found myself consuming a lot of media.   Before I left the house, I did a quick TV channel scan for sports headlines, news updates and weather. Then on the drive to the train station, I listened to...
    April 13, 2011 - 1:18am
  • Dear Readers: Earlier this year we checked in with the post-Higgins (that's Scott Higgins) world at DISH Network, speaking with Bruce Eisen and Chris Kuhrt about what's going on in the interactive television side of DISH. But there was one glaring omission in that conversation--DISH Network Advanced Ad Sales. And we will correct that today. Now many of the operators in our space have...
    March 28, 2011 - 12:48am
  • Dear iTV Doctor:   OK, I finally understand what you're saying about how we can accelerate the adoption (and profitability!) of interactive television by "handing off" to the enormous pool of mobile devices that are in the hands of virtually everybody we want to talk to. Probably the fastest way to generate iTV revenue is with commerce. But while interactive applications...
    March 18, 2011 - 12:23am
  • Dear Readers: You're tired of hearing me say it, but you don't have to interact ON television in order to interact WITH television. Dual-screen experiences with traditional television and companion devices (smartphones, tablets and all like such as that) really do make sense. And adding the exploding handheld distribution to the growth of set-top box based interactivity can benefit...
    March 7, 2011 - 12:30am
  • Dear iTV Doctor: At this year's CES, everybody was buzzing about widgets and other interactive applications being "baked" into the hardware--HDTV's, Blu-ray players, etc. But one thing that still bugs me (and you've written about it before): if I'm watching a sporting event, or a primetime show--and remember I might be watching it live, on-demand or off my DVR--how in...
    February 13, 2011 - 9:37pm
  • Dear Readers: For nearly a decade, the folks at DISH Network have been proving to the industry that interactive television was more than a dream. Scott Higgins, a favorite panelist of the TV of Tomorrow shows over the years, recently left the DISH Network family (and we hope to catch up with him very soon). So we decided to reach out to Bruce Eisen, DISH Network's VP of online content...
    February 6, 2011 - 5:50pm
  • Happy Dead of Winter, one and all!Now that we've flushed the New Year's eggnog out of our systems, it's time to put our brains back in gear.The good doctor has prepared another anthology column (remember our forecasts for 2012? Those may come back to haunt us!). This time we will focus on a specific technological environment rather than a specific time. We asked some of the best brains in the...
    January 20, 2011 - 10:03pm
  • Dear iTV Doctor: You've written a lot about using "companion" devices to accelerate the deployment and adoption of interactive television. And I understand how all the various and sundry applications for iPhones and Androids can complement television programming (as I write this I'm waiting on hold to talk to Verizon about an iPhone...). And I REALLY understand how users of those devices are...
    January 14, 2011 - 12:22am
  • Dear iTV Doctor: I'm reading about Comcast, Verizon, AT&T and DirecTV bringing Internet-enabled set-top boxes to the market. And while that's great for new subscribers, or for those who are upgrading their services, that still leaves millions of subscribers with old unconnected equipment. If we believe that a combination of broadband content and MPEG video is one of the ways to accelerate...
    December 19, 2010 - 5:58pm
  • Dear iTV Doctor:  Interactive television just seems to be SO CLOSE now. Virtually every cable, satellite or telco company has something going on. There's a lot of energy, a lot of innovation and a lot of buzz. And the EBIF--oops, I meant SelecTV-- announcements are coming fast and furious. But in spite of all that, I've yet to see a real market-wide deployment, not to mention a...
    November 30, 2010 - 8:44pm
  • Dear Readers:   Every now and again, more frequently of late, our industry seems to be weighed down by what were previously deemed to be sound business and technical decisions. But as we struggle to respond to the demands of our stakeholders and the fickle choices of our customers, it can help to get a breath of fresh air. This week, The iTV Doctor spoke to one of our most experienced...
    November 1, 2010 - 10:08pm
  • Dear Readers:A few years back (well, maybe more than a few), my Showtime Networks Affiliate Marketing group (led by a terrific trio of powerful women: Magoo Boller, Joan Coyne and Gina Goldberg) was responsible for all those direct mail campaigns, our CSR incentives and training initiatives, and our outbound telemarketing for subscriber acquisition. And once the cable industry went addressable,...
    October 21, 2010 - 11:25pm
  •   Dear Readers:  ROGER DEMUTH is a man on the move (and in the interests of full disclosure, Roger is also a friend and an occasional advisor to The iTV Doctor). And he appears to be very mobile recently. After five years at the Ensequence corporate offices in Portland, OR, Roger took over their London office where he managed the development and deployment of QVC Active on...
    October 10, 2010 - 10:56pm
  • Dear iTV Doctor:I read last week about the new agreement between FourthWall Media and PayPal. That's exciting stuff, but I'm not entirely sure how it applies to interactive television. I use PayPal for eBay and things like  that, but I don't see the television connection. What's the skinny?eBayBoyDear eBayBoy:I also use PayPal. In point of fact, I'm a long-time eBayer (1826 rating, 100...
    October 3, 2010 - 10:54pm
  • Dear iTV Doctor:It seems like the world of over-the-top (OTT) television has now gone WAAAAY over-the-top! I've been reading about a new player in the space called ivi TV. And they've created a firestorm of controversy by including local feeds of network broadcast affiliates in their programming package. What I want to know is, is ivi TV an opportunity, or is it poison?Sumac in Sanibel Dear Sumac...
    September 23, 2010 - 9:16pm
  • Dear Readers: As John Lennon wrote, "I'm not the only one" who doesn't watch Fox's hit show "Glee" on a regular basis. But if my Facebook friends are any indication, I'm in the minority. So I managed to catch a replay of Episode 11, Season 1 ("Hairography") the other night, and it started me thinking. There are about a million ways to purchase music from "Glee" online, but is there any way to do...
    September 17, 2010 - 12:06am
  • Dear Readers: I used to say that my 90-year-old mother would stop the expansion of digital cable television cold. She's a die-hard analog subscriber without premium services in Wilmington, DE. And she would never EVER upgrade to a more expensive digital service just so Comcast could save some bandwidth. Until the Digital Terminal Adapter came along this past year. All of a sudden, she has...
    September 9, 2010 - 10:05pm
  • Dear iTV Doctor:I've heard the reports and read the stories about Verizon FiOS TV putting live TV on the iPad. I understand that iPads and tablets are the hottest thing going, and it's very cool that Verizon FiOS is working with a device that's not even on their network. But there's got to be more to it than just TV, right?iPaddling uPstream       Dear iPaddling:I think there is a...
    August 26, 2010 - 10:57pm
  • Dear iTV Doctor:I'm writing you anonymously today, because I don't want my friends to know that I really don't understand "The Cloud" as it applies to television content. In fact, I really don't understand "The Cloud" at all. I know that it basically means that I get content from out there (somewhere), but where does it all start and how does it get to me? I know that when our customers make an...
    August 17, 2010 - 12:55am
  • Dear Readers:  Let's do the time warp again this week. We started our PERSPECTIVE series with Full Service Network (1994), then Video Juke Box (1988), followed by Talkback to Showtime (1981). Now we go back to 1977, and the granddaddy of interactive television.It didn't last. The technology worked. The consumers liked it. It even had scale (once the system was built). But they shut it down....
    August 13, 2010 - 1:03am
  • Talkback to Showtime 1981
    There were two phones on the desk. Not his desk. (Showtime president) Mike Weinblatt's desk. Mike's was the only office with two phone lines. Both phones were live. One phone was connected to the call center, the other to the uplink in Vernon Valley, NJ. As the numbers changed from the incoming 900#, he calculated the ratios and relayed the results to be displayed on the network. The show airing...
    August 3, 2010 - 1:50am
  • It was the bells. During the initial meeting, and throughout the day, he kept hearing a bell ring. At the top of the hour. At the bottom of the hour. In the middle of the hour. All the time! It reminded him of an insane high school bell schedule where classes alternated start and stop times to cut down traffic in the hallways. Finally he asked, "What's with the bells?" And when he heard the...
    July 25, 2010 - 10:35pm
  • Dear Readers:Today we begin our long-awaited series: PERSPECTIVE. Our first chapter deals with Full Service Network. Future columns will discuss QUBE, Video Jukebox, Sega Channel and other ground-breaking interactive TV efforts, and the impact those deployments have on interactive television today. Chapter One: Full Service NetworkThe industry served up a bazillion video-on-demand sessions last...
    July 15, 2010 - 9:20pm
  • Dear Readers:3D TV mania is clearly upon us. Announcements right and left. More heat than a firestorm. And maybe, just maybe, a viable television business. There are a lot of unanswered questions, and one of the most nagging is "What about all the programming in the can? How do we monetize that?" So, to get to a bit of an answer, I reached out to Hitesh Shah, CEO of The Z Effect, a company that...
    July 8, 2010 - 8:36pm
  • Congratulations to Steven C. Johnson from Johnson Telecom (http://www.johnsontelecom.com). Steven was top among the 113 brave souls who entered the Interactive TV Trivia Challenge last week. Steven will receive a personalized iTV Doctor lab coat! And for those of you who tried the quiz, and for those who did not, here are the answers. Like I said--it starts easy and gets pretty nasty at the end (...
    June 27, 2010 - 11:41pm
  • Dear Readers:Inasmuch as summer is upon us, it's time for a bit of summer reading. Something light and fun that might provide a bit of perspective. And that's just what we're going to do--create a series of columns, under the name "PERSPECTIVE," that feature some of the wonderful interactive television work that has gone before. But as we line up contributors to the series, I thought I'd...
    June 17, 2010 - 10:07pm
  • Dear Readers: Today we have an interesting question about connectivity--putting the "interaction" in interactive television over on another device. You may argue that this is nothing more than the venerable "two-screen interactive TV" of days gone by, but with the superior intelligence (and ubiquity) of smartphones, and the audience power of television, it's worth another look. But before we...
    June 10, 2010 - 9:55pm
  • Dear Readers:The iTV Doctor has been on somewhat of a quest about what the industry calls "telescoping." In three prior columns (published on itvt.com, April 23rd, May 13th and May 27th), we've seen that folks in the interactive television business may have been a tad "vague" in their discussions about whether they can actually "telescope" (which I define as "pause, fetch, resume") with existing...
    June 7, 2010 - 8:55pm
  • Dear Readers:The iTV Doctor: PROFILES returns this week with a tale of one of the real good guys in the cable business--Steve Necessary, VP of video strategy and product management at Cox Communications. I'd like to thank HSN for their charter sponsorship of PROFILES, and welcome itaas as the new sponsor of PROFILES!When you ask around about people in the cable business (and don't be fooled--...
    June 3, 2010 - 10:05pm
  • Dear Readers:There's something about cable software engineers. I joke about getting anything you want with a couple of diet cokes and a bag of beef jerky. But that's wrong: sometimes you need a Costco-sized container of Swedish Fish--the red ones. Maybe it's my background. My dad was a chemical engineer for DuPont, and an inveterate problem solver. I started in the cable business doing...
    May 27, 2010 - 8:53pm
  • Dear Readers:Well, your friendly neighborhood doctor may have stirred up a bit of a hornet's nest with the column, "Let's Pause for a Word from our Sponsors" (The iTV Doctor, April 23, 2010). On the week of the Cable Show, I thought I'd share a letter received from a contributor who prefers to remain anonymous. But I can tell you the writer has a wealth of experience in television and interactive...
    May 13, 2010 - 8:33pm
  • Dear Readers:There's been a lot of talk about guides recently. And program guides are a subject near and dear to my heart. I spent some time at "The Cable Guide" (a monthly publication) back in the day, and even helped market a monthly magazine ("See") for DirecTV. At that time, TV Guide published a weekly guide for DirecTV, and it really did look like a digest-sized Manhattan phone book! And...
    May 13, 2010 - 8:21pm
  • Dear iTV Doctor:Over the years I've heard about how games are the drivers of iTV usage, and it looks like interactive television games might be the right model for both audience and advertiser engagement. Our network family has created plenty of online, wireless and even console games, and people keep coming back for more. It's been very successful for our network brands and our advertisers. But...
    May 6, 2010 - 9:15pm
  • Dear Readers: Today's installment of The iTV Doctor: PROFILES features a unique personality, actually more of an entity, on whose shoulders the cable industry has loaded the weight of subscriber growth, competitive advantage and literally billions of dollars of revenue. His name is Enhanced Brand and Information Fanatic (aka EBIF).   iTV Doctor: Good morning, EBIF. Thank you for joining us...
    May 3, 2010 - 6:04pm
  • Dear iTV Doctor:I was at Best Buy the other day and saw the terrific 55" Samsung 3D set for sale. And although the price is a tad (!!!!) above my range, I'm willing to bet that the price will come down as the manufacturing and sales volume rises through the end of the year. But it seems Samsung (and the other CE manufacturers) have a real challenge ahead of them. I mean, when they introduced HDTV...
    May 2, 2010 - 7:35pm
  • Dear Readers:I was watching "Lost" on ABC the other evening, and a commercial break came up. Three minutes of commercials, maybe four. But I knew that I'd return to the program right where I left off, because that's how television works. Didn't miss a thing, except a few wasted minutes of my life. But what if the first spot in that pod was interactive? What the industry calls a "Telescoping Ad."...
    April 23, 2010 - 12:58am
  • Dear Readers:This week we continue to skewer some of the industry's sacred cows with our new Sound Off! column, which is sponsored by ActiveVideo Networks. But we'll try something different this time. I mean, this isn't brain surgery--it's just television. We are allowed to improvise. Our set-up actually begins as a point-of-view from Mark Cuban, in response to my invitation to him to participate...
    April 19, 2010 - 1:31am
  • Dear iTV Doctor:I read your column about the NBCU Olympic coverage, and I saw Steve Donohue's Facebook video of the ActiveVideo Networks coverage on Cablevision ( http://www.youtube.com/stevedonohue06). But frankly, I'm confused. I remember the company from their ICTV days, going back at least a decade. But now I see real commercial deployments, and that's obviously great news for the company....
    April 15, 2010 - 10:42pm
  • Dear iTV Doctor:I don't get it. All we ever talk about is how much money we'll make from interactive television commerce. But every time I ask our engineers when we'll be ready, I get a thousand reasons why it can't be done--yet. We can do the front end, but not the back end. We can send the application without a problem, but we can't get the return path to handle the necessary commerce detail....
    April 8, 2010 - 9:51pm
  • Dear Readers: This is the second installment of a two-part iTV Doctor PROFILE of Joan Gillman, president of media sales at Time Warner Cable. The iTV Doctor PROFILES series is sponsored by HSN. Part One of our PROFILE of Joan Gillman covered her time on Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd's staff, her work at Internet start-up Physicians' Online, and her groundbreaking career at British...
    April 8, 2010 - 9:23pm
  • --Sound Off! is sponsored by ActiveVideo Networks

    Dear Readers: Today we introduce a new feature column: Sound Off! We intend to skewer some of the sacred cows of our business, with industry notables taking positions on either side of the arguments. Today's topic: Should the Motorola DCT 2000 be euthanized? The iTV Doctor will take the argument FOR euthanasia of the DCT 2000. Taking the argument AGAINST euthanasia of the DCT 2000 is Todd Walker...
    April 2, 2010 - 2:01am
  • Dear iTV Doctor:  A few weeks ago you wrote about Vizio Internet Apps built into their HD sets. I was particularly intrigued by the snazzy programmable remote with keyboard. You suggested that that remote might be able to emulate the cable, satellite or telco remotes currently being used, including advanced features like iTV navigation. But now I read about a company named Ceton, which...
    March 25, 2010 - 11:05pm
  • Dear iTV Doctor: I've enjoyed all the NBC Olympic coverage, particularly the interactive channel on Cablevision (actually, I didn't actually SEE that--I saw Steve Donohue's video posting on Facebook). But then I saw [NBC Universal VP of digital distribution] Michael Aaronson's presentation at the DISH Network iTV Summit, and I understand NBC went interactive on AT&T, DISH Network, DirecTV,...
    March 18, 2010 - 10:49pm
  • - Sponsored by HSN

    Dear Readers:As we have noted previously, it is our continuing mission to explore interactive television on a variety of levels: the product itself, the technology that enables it, the companies that drive it, and now the people who make it happen. This week, backed by a sponsorship from the good people at HSN, we bring you part 1 of a 2-part profile of Joan Gillman, president of media sales at...
    March 15, 2010 - 12:37am
  • Dear iTV Doctor:Has the industry yet figured out how to use games as content? We've seen "advergames" and little embedded games connected to iTV applications. We've seen various and sundry distributors try their hands at subscription game packages. But what I want to know is, can a games "channel" compete with a major programming network for audience share? Gamer in Gotham Dear Gamer:Like many in...
    March 8, 2010 - 10:33pm
  • Dear Readers:Like many of you, I was astounded by the Vizio commercial during the 2010 Super Bowl--robots grabbing Beyonce and a handful of Web sites and dropping them into a TV set. We've certainly seen our share of trade and consumer press about Yahoo! Widgets and other applications that are baked into high-end television sets. But press releases are a long way from spending a couple million...
    February 19, 2010 - 2:16am
  • Dear iTV Doctor:I wrote to you last August about widgets, and how they are being used across the industry. You asked Verizon's Rachelle Zoffer to answer my questions, and that was terrific. But now I see that DirecTV is doing widgets. How can a satellite service provide interactive widgets? Do they use the phone lines, or does every subscriber need to put a 10-meter dish in their backyard? What...
    February 12, 2010 - 1:58am
  • Dear Readers:As we've previously noted, 2009 was sort of a rough time for folks in the interactive TV business, particularly with the expansion and contraction of the various companies that make their living by providing iTV technology, applications and support. And so far, 2010 isn't looking any better. If you're Looking for a Gig, whether full-time or part-time, permanent or temporary, salaried...
    February 5, 2010 - 1:05am
  • Dear Readers: The iTV Doctor is pleased to announce that TAG Networks is our new sponsor in the Games category. With TAG Networks' support, we will be able to continue and expand our (hopefully) thought-provoking discussions about interactive television and the people who make it happen. Today, we have a very interesting column about AT&T U-verse.   Dear iTV Doctor:Interactive TV...
    January 29, 2010 - 1:41am
  • Dear Readers:2009 was sort of a rough time for folks in the interactive TV business, particularly with the expansion and contraction of the various companies that make their living by providing iTV technology, applications and support. And recent news suggests it's not getting any better. So we're going to try something different: If you're Looking for a Gig, whether full-time or part-time,...
    January 22, 2010 - 1:39am
  • Dear Readers:This week we offer some commentary from industry notables on the rather substantial "buzz" about 3D at the recent Consumer Electronics Show. You'll read comments from Mike Bloxham, Allison Dollar, Jaspal Bhasin, Glen Friedman, Gary Arlen, and one anonymous satellite techie.         Mike Bloxham, Center for Media Design, Ball State University   As I sat...
    January 15, 2010 - 12:45am
  • Dear Readers:This is the final installment of our series of columns that look back from a perspective some three years in the future. Thanks to all our contributors, and to all our readers. I hope you have a happy and healthy holiday season, filled with warmth and fellowship--and perchance a wee dram of good single-malt. The iTV Doctor     Dateline: December 22, 2012 - Well, we got past...
    December 18, 2009 - 12:18am
  • Dear Readers: This is the second 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. The third and final part will be published on itvt.com next week. The iTV Doctor Dateline: December 22, 2012 - Well, we got past the Mayan "end of the world" prophecy and the world didn't...
    December 10, 2009 - 11:54pm
  • 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 itvt.com 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...
    December 4, 2009 - 2:41am
  • In early 2004, my wife met a gal who worked at Macy's corporate offices. They got to talking, and my wife proclaimed our family's love of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Her response was, "I have an offer you CAN'T refuse!" At that point, our family evolved from parade fans to parade participants. We filled out the paperwork, and soon learned that we would be handling the "Barney" balloon....
    November 25, 2009 - 1:19am
  • Dear iTV Doctor:I just came back from the CTAM conference in Denver. It was terrific to have interactive television the topic of so many panels and discussions--that seems to be a real breakthrough. But after digesting all that information, I'm confused. We have seen tremendous progress in EBIF deployments and EBIF application development over the past 18 months, but some of the announcements...
    November 9, 2009 - 1:15am
  • Dear iTV Doctor: The more I read about cable networks "going interactive," the less I understand about how they select which programs to work with. I understand that some shows are easier to fire up than others, and that some advertisers drive the selection. But doesn't the viewer count for anything? It would seem that some viewers are actually FANS of the shows they watch. Is there any data to...
    October 15, 2009 - 10:46pm
  • Dear iTV Doctor:Our network's budget process is almost done, and we have put an ad revenue line into our 2010 budget for interactive television, starting right from launch. Problem is, we simply don't know how to sell interactive sponsorships and I worry that we won't generate sufficient usage to even attract an advertiser. Do you have any suggestions? Dug Myself a Budget Hole     Dear...
    October 1, 2009 - 9:39pm
  • Dear iTV Doctor: As we are laying out our iTV plans for the next budget year, it seems that the easiest and fastest way to engage the greatest number of viewers is to invite them to PLAY with our programs. So if that's the way we go, what can we learn from the interactive game producers? Ready to PlayDear Ready:We all multi-task, all the time. It's virtually impossible for a television program to...
    September 20, 2009 - 2:31pm
  • Dear iTV Doctor: I've read a lot about OEDN over the last year. It is clear they are doing a great job in getting awareness of development efforts for EBIF and tru2way. But it is less clear on where they are going. Will the universities (like NYU and Ball State) actually have ITV certification programs? We'd like to start building a staff of young, talented interactive television developers to...
    August 27, 2009 - 12:03am
  • Dear iTV Doctor:We are looking forward at all the interactive platforms available now, and coming down the pike: EBIF, tru2Way, TVworks, PowerTV, MDN, NDS, OpenTV, Verizon Widgets, DirecTV Widgets...the list appears to be getting longer every day! Is there anybody who can help us develop applications for all those platforms? Overwhelmed in Oregon Dear Overwhelmed:Yes, there is an extremely...
    August 20, 2009 - 11:11pm
  • Dear iTV Doctor: I've been reading the [itvt] Newsletter and the recent story about Verizon's widgets, and I'm a little confused. People in the industry have been talking about widgets for years, and I guess I've never really understood the difference between a widget and a regular iTV application. What's the benefit of using widgets vs. EBIF "bound" applications? Can programming networks use...
    August 6, 2009 - 11:51pm
  • Dear iTV Doctor:We WANT to do interactive television. To keep up with the bigger network "families" we NEED to do interactive television. But when you think that iTV users would be just a fraction of our viewing audience, we just won't have enough eyeballs to generate enough advertising money to PAY for interactive television. How can we make money from interactive television TODAY? Budget-Bound...
    July 23, 2009 - 10:43pm
  • Dear iTV Doctor:I hear that interactive television standards don't support High Definition. If that's true, with the explosion of HD sets, isn't iTV on a short path to obsolescence? Perturbed Programmer Dear Perturbed:You've identified an important issue, because Standard-Definition iTV graphics in a High-Definition display are not going to meet the demands of the programmer or advertiser, nor...
    July 10, 2009 - 12:02am
  • Dear iTV Doctor: Our network group is lining up a package of interactive applications for fall '09 deployment on cable, telco and satellite. We're not counting on advertising and sponsorship to offset our costs, so we want to keep our design, development and deployment costs as low as possible. Do you have any suggestions on how to keep iTV costs reasonable? Counting Pennies in Programming...
    June 25, 2009 - 1:53am
  • Dear Readers: It was with no small amount of nostalgia that I saw the passing of a television era on July 12th--the end of analog television. For those of us who started in the cable industry "back in the day," I offer the following commentary from Tom Crowley. Tom and I both worked with ATC (American Television & Communications) in the early 70's. The iTV Doctor ===With the passing of...
    June 17, 2009 - 12:25am
  • Dear iTV Doctor: I don't get it. I thought the idea of EBIF was "write once, publish everywhere." But now I'm hearing that every cable operator has a slightly different flavor of EBIF, and the same interactive application won't necessarily work in all situations. Can you explain that? TechNinny   Dear TechNinny:I think you're hearing PART of the story, but inasmuch as I am admittedly a non...
    June 4, 2009 - 1:33am
  • [itvt] is pleased to debut a weekly column on our new Web site in which the iTV Doctor, Rick Howe, and his team of interactive TV experts, will answer your most pressing questions about interactive TV. If you have a question for the iTV Doctor, email him at itvdoctor@itvt.com.   Dear iTV Doctor:We've seen lots of numbers about participation in interactive TV "experiences"--how many people...
    May 28, 2009 - 1:59am