The iTV Doctor Is In!: DirecTV's App Store and Widgets

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 kind of widgets are they doing, and who is doing them? Is it an open environment like Facebook? Can anybody launch a widget?

Gidget Widget

Dear Gidget:

Hey, thanks for writing in again, but for heaven's sake take a breath! I believe DirecTV is starting to offer interactive widgets to the subscribers who have broadband-enabled DVR's (I am one of those subscribers). Personally, I think the DirecTV widgets are very cool, particularly the new "This Day in History" widget from The History Channel. I even follow myself on the DirecTV Twitter widget (but I've found I'm every bit as boring on DirecTV as I am on Twitter...).

But to get the real skinny on DirecTV widgets, I turned your question over to The Widget King himself--Tyler Slocum, DirecTV's senior director of advanced services.

Here's what Tyler has to say:

For a few years now, a growing number of DirecTV customers have been connecting HD DVR's to their broadband home networks to access the DirecTV on Demand (VOD), Media Share and DirecTV2PC services. It just made sense for us to use this broadband path to deliver interactive application data to these connected households as well. Traditional interactive applications are channel specific, but this delivery method enabled access to applications on any channel or even during playback of recorded content. This opened the door for new application development that just wasn't practical with satellite delivery.

The TV Apps platform was launched in August of last year with an app store that is available on the set-top box for easy access, or online at The online app store provides a way to manage apps
for all connected receivers in the household with one interface.

With a press of the right arrow key on the remote, the viewer has access to a dock that we pre-populate with a handful of basic apps like a 5-day Weather Forecast, My NFL Team and ScoreGuide. Once accessed, the viewer has complete control of their dock and is free to add and remove apps from a list of over 40 on the platform today. We'll be aggressively building out our inventory, including additional "My Team" customized sports apps.

We offer both fully interactive apps and image-based apps. The latter can be developed and hosted by third parties or viewers without the use of a middleware development kit or extended testing cycle. Our programming partners and the development community at large have come forward with some great apps. I believe we're only starting to scratch the surface of what is possible.



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

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