The iTV Doctor Is In!: Is it all a Game?

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 every time we look at porting those games over to television, or creating new ones, we get stuck: insufficient memory in the box, limited color palates, expensive bandwidth--it's always something. How can I bring our branded games experience to TV?

Just Wanna Offer Games



Dear Just Wanna:

I think that games are a perfect model for interactive television. Games are immediately engaging for the viewer, and that engagement deepens as the viewer plays the game. But wait, there's more: the longer the viewer plays, the more likely he is to come back. Can you think of any other iTV experience or application that the viewer wants to repeat? "Playing with Television" is an appropriate descriptor of iTV, and it's one we've previously explored.

Two months ago I wrote about TAG Networks (March 8th, 2010: The iTV Doctor Is In!: Can a Games Channel Compete with a Programming Network?). They have a unique distribution capability that I believe can easily solve your problem. Let's hear what TAG Networks CEO Sangita Verma has to say:

Wow, Just Wanna, I know exactly where you're coming from! In fact, I found it so frustrating that a few years ago TAG actually resorted to building its own game platform because we couldn't find a reasonable games solution which allowed us to create everything we thought a good games offering needed. Given our metrics--20% of the digital base playing games in TAG on a monthly basis, TAG households averaging 116 minutes per day in usage, 11% to 20% response rates on our interactive advertising campaigns--I think our team has done a great job with our offering and technology.

If you read the iTV Doctor's column a couple of months ago, you know that our vision has been to build the next major cable network. We want to be the ESPN of Games--yeah I know, we're small dreamers here at TAG. But the next phase of our plan is opening up TAG's game platform so that other programmers, content owners and games providers, like you, can build on it--we want to be the Xbox, PlayStation or Wii (pick your favorite) of the TV world.

We've done the hard work--built a highly scalable, dedicated TV games platform which meets the deployment needs of the cable, satellite, IPTV and CE providers. Meets the needs of the subscribers/players by providing beautiful, rich, compelling games, robust community features (including multiplayer, high scores and awards) which span TV, online and wireless. And of course meets the needs of the game owner by allowing you to build your game once, distribute it across multiple providers and monetize through advertising, micro-transactions and premium pay models such as subscription and pay for play.

Let me say that again: You build the game ONCE, and deploy it across set-top boxes and CE devices. As every content owner knows, having to build and port for multiple boxes, handsets and devices is painful and costly. We should be ready to open up the TAG games platform to a few programmers by the end of the year, with more to follow next year.

So what does this really mean? It means that tons of game developers will have a new outlet to develop and monetize games. It means that more subscribers will get their worthy game fix from a TV screen, and not just a console, PC or handset. And it means that the TV industry--distribution and content--will now benefit from and contribute to an entertainment experience on TV that once eluded them.

We have the platform, we're gaining the distribution, and the game owners are on our doorstep. Stay tuned, Just Wanna, because the game's about to get bigger and more exciting!

(Doctor's Note: It was announced Wednesday that ActiveVideo Networks has acquired TAG Networks and will be adding TAG's scalable network game platform to its CloudTV interactive streaming platform.)



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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