Vizio Unveils Expanded List of Content Partners for its Interactive TV-Enabled HDTV's

--Will Feature Widgets from eBay, Facebook, Radiotime, Revision3, Rallypoint, Showtime, Twitter, Vudu

Consumer electronics manufacturer, Vizio, unveiled Tuesday an expanded list of content and service partners that it says are developing interactive TV widgets for its VIA (stands for "Vizio Internet Apps") Connected HDTV service. The new partners--which join previously announced partners Accedo Broadband, Amazon Video On Demand, Blockbuster On Demand, Flickr, Netflix, Pandora and Rhapsody--are:

  • eBay, whose eBay TV Widget is billed as enabling viewers to use their remotes to search for, view photos of and compare prices of products on the company's online auction site, as well as monitor items, get real-time updates and even place bids.
  • Facebook, whose widget will be based on its Facebook Connect service.
  • Radiotime, whose widget is billed as making it easy for viewers to find local, national or global radio programming airing on over 60,000 AM/FM and Internet radio stations in 140 countries and 55 languages.
  • Revision3, whose widget will provide access to its broadband video service (which it bills as "an actual TV network for the Web").
  • Rallypoint Sports, whose Rallycast Fantasy Sports widget is billed as providing viewers with real-time fantasy league stats and allowing them to communicate with their fantasy sports friends and competitors.
  • Showtime Networks, whose Showtime TV Widget is billed as providing trailers and other video extras, trivia, and select sample episodes of such series as "Dexter" and "Weeds."
  • Twitter, whose TV widget is expected to offer similar functionality to its Web-based service.
  • Over-the-top-TV specialist, Vudu, whose widget is billed as providing viewers with access to the largest collection of HD titles in existence, complete with 5.1 surround sound, and available day-and-date with their DVD release.

According to Vizio, the VIA Connected HDTV service--which is based on the Yahoo! Widget Engine and the Adobe Flash Platform for the Digital Home (note: the latter is an optimized implementation of Flash that allows developers and content providers to deliver HD video, rich applications and other Web content to Internet-connected TV sets, set-top boxes, Blu-ray players and other home entertainment devices)--will be integrated into Vizio XVT-series HDTV's that are slated to ship to retailers across the US this fall. The company says that some of the service's widgets will be available at launch while others will be delivered shortly afterwards over the television sets' Internet connection. The widgets, which can be accessed and used while watching regular TV, are displayed in what the company describes as an "easy-to-navigate, non-intrusive menu" that can be adjusted to fit around the video on the TV screen. Vizio says that TV's equipped with the VIA Connected HDTV service will include wireless (802.11n dual-band) and wired networking for easy connection to the Internet out of the box: according to the company, the TV's will employ interactive video to guide users through a step-by-step set-up process that runs as soon as they are turned on for the first time; users will simply select their wireless network from a list of available networks in order to connect their set to the Internet, Vizio says, and will also have the option of plugging in an Ethernet cable.

VIA Connected HDTV sets will also come with a universal remote control which incorporates a QWERTY keyboard that slides open in order to allow viewers to type in whatever user names, passwords and keywords they need to enter in order to use their TV widgets. Vizio says that the remote will be equipped with Bluetooth, so that viewers can type on it without having to point it directly at their TV set (note: the remote also includes infrared technology, so that it can be used to control other devices in addition to Vizio's HDTV sets). "We are excited by the support of the additional content and service providers being announced today," Vizio's VP of products, Matthew McRae, said in a prepared statement. "The overwhelming response so far from the biggest brands in this space validates our unique approach in addressing the growing consumer demand for online content and services on the biggest screen in the home. Understanding that consumers still expect the TV to remain first and foremost the entertainment centerpiece of the home, we've gone to great lengths to ensure that the VIA platform integrates seamlessly with the existing TV experience and makes Web-based content as easily discoverable as flipping the channel."

North America