The things I do for ActiveVideo

It’s been said that when the world hands you lemons, you make Hawaiian Punch. That’s what I did when I was told to stop my important work here at ActiveVideo and high tail it out to a series of focus groups at one of our cable system partners’ sites. Tough work, but somebody had to do it.  I climbed on a plane and headed to Hawaii where I spent the last week getting feedback on interactivity and gaining weight while devouring what the locals call “Lunch Plates.”

For you Mainlanders, a Lunch Plate is a meal that’s a little bit of everything.  I chowed down on LocoMoco, a catch-all pile of rice, hamburger and gravy topped with a fried egg.  And ultimately I learned that most consumers want a television experience that -- much like a lunch plate –- puts a lot of things in front of them and allows them to choose what they want.

While we’ll be sorting through the official conclusions of the focus groups for a while, here’s a quick look at how we approached the focus groups and what some of my initial impressions were:

First, we selected six groups of roughly 10-12 participants each based on demographic profiles.  We had the notorious and aging Baby Boomers, the allegedly cord-cutting Millennials, and the in-between Generation Xers. Each of the age brackets was broken into two groups – those who were heavier users of the ActiveVideo service on Oceanic Time Warner Cable, and those who had not.

We discussed their concepts of interactivity, what they knew about it and how they interacted with other services such as DVRs, VoD and electronic program guides so we’d get an idea of their technological proficiency. We demonstrated t-commerce, entertainment and games programming that is already already up and running at Oceanic; yet-to-be released social network, user-generated video and photo applications; and a navigational guide that is still under development, but was more popular than the landmark Rainbow Drive-In at the height of the dinner rush.

Not surprisingly, the groups stratified on the way they watched television. Boomers wanted a companion, an entertainment piece in the living room that had a role that was markedly different from that of the PC. Millennials were less patient; television to them was only part of an overall and often interchangeable experience that includes PCs and cell phones. Generation Xers, starting to mature and become more settled, were caught somewhere in the middle – more fluent on the Web, but interested in making the most of the TV experience.

In general, though, there were a couple of observations that were almost universally shared: 

First, that a single interface that optimizes the viewer experience is one of the most popular features that interactive television could offer.  The participants in all of our groups loved the concept of being able to navigate through the television equivalent of LocoMoco -- DVR titles, linear television, Web video, photos, user generated video and other content as part of a seamless experience. 

The second finding was that interactivity – just like a hefty lunch plate –actually increases consumption.  Our participants were near unanimous in their opinion that the availability of more interactive TV programming would encourage them to spend more time at the television.  And as the proprietors of Hawaii’s eateries know, the more that people consume, the better it is for business.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be – ahem – digesting the results of the study.  We hope to be sharing them with you in the future.  In the meantime, I’m going to try to shed my new-found pounds -- in anticipation of a second wave of focus groups, or perhaps just another week of classic Hawaiian cuisine.

                                                          --Edgar Villalpando, ActiveVideo Networks