Interactive TV News Round-Up (VII): never.no, Oberon Media, Ocean Blue, Ooyala, Orb Networks, Overlay.tv, Oxygen Media, Philo, PlayJam, Popsy Interactive, Pushbutton

Popsy—How To Play

[itvt]'s daily news coverage went on hiatus October 18th in order to allow our editorial staff to work full time on TVOT NYC Intensive. This issue contains a round-up of some of the major interactive TV-related news stories that have broken since then. Due to the volume of news we are covering in this issue, our summaries of each item are somewhat more abbreviated than usual (note: extensive background information on most of the companies and technologies covered in this issue can be found by using itvt.com's search functionality). We apologize for any inconvenience to our readers.

  • Norway's never.no says that its Rent-to-Own program for its flagship Interactivity Suite has proven successful, signing up such international advertising and marketing agencies as Digital Reach Group, Trock Media Solutions and Clickgrafix Design Studios. The company bills the program as "tak[ing] advantage of cloud-based computing to make award-winning interactivity technology available, affordable, and useful to a dramatically expanded user base."
  • Oberon Media has announced that it will be hosting monthly tournaments for DISH Network subscribers that play its interactive TV hunting game, "Hunting Trails 2." "Each month, the top five scorers will have the opportunity to win gift certificates that they can use for some of the actual delicacies that they shoot in the game including elk, buffalo and deer meat," the company states in its press materials. "Additionally, one grand prize winner will walk away with a $500 gift certificate that they can use to purchase a taxidermied animal of choice."
  • Ocean Blue has announced: 1) its support for the YouView standard; 2) the launch of its Sunrise USB Video Recorder software, which is designed to allow consumers to record TV programs onto USB connected media; and 3) the availability of its Sunrise HD DVB Voyager HD MHEG-5 software, including support for BBC iPlayer, on HD chipsets from Renesas and Trident.
  • Ooyala has announced 1) a PayPal-powered service, called Ooyala Paywall, that allows video publishers to earn revenue from their live and on-demand video content, by enabling viewers to pay for that content via a credit card payment form on their browser screen; 2) a partnership with Boxee that allows video publishers to distribute their content to the latter's new Boxee Box by D-Link; and 3) a deal to power all live and on-demand video for Mexican sports Web site, Media Tiempo.
  • Orb Networks has launched Orb TV, which it bills as "the first Internet TV product that allows consumers to watch thousands of online TV shows from Hulu, ESPN3, Comedy Central and more by bringing it to the home TV for comfortable, big-screen viewing. Orb TV is now available for $99, offering a complete home entertainment solution that is easy to set up, and simply controlled through a convenient smartphone app (iPhone, Android, iPad, iPod Touch)," the company states in its press materials.
  • Overlay.tv is powering interactive video commerce for fashion house, Hugo Boss.
  • Oxygen Media recently partnered with "entertainment-based retailer," StyleQ, on a Facebook-based social commerce promotion for the "reunion special" of the reality show, "Bad Girls Club Miami." While watching the reunion episode, viewers could visit the "Bad Girls Club" Facebook page to purchase various apparel, footwear, and beauty products they were seeing on-air. They could also access bonus material such as instructional video vignettes and behind-the-scenes footage of the show. Oxygen also recently held a "tweet-a-thon," in which it donated money to a charity every time a fan of the show, "Running Russell Simmons," tweeted #runningrussell.
  • A representative from social TV company, Philo, contacted [itvt] Thursday to let us know about a new partnership with Spike TV and to give us an update on some of the company's other recent activities: "Spike TV and Philo...have teamed up for the Video Game Awards premiering this Saturday, December 11th...Philo and Spike have created 'World Exclusive Premiere Badges' tied to a variety of the 13 world premieres slated for some of the most anticipated games of 2011 and beyond," the representative wrote in an email. "Gamers can also check-in on the Philo/VGA landing page starting today. Any check-in between now and the end of Saturday's live broadcast will enter users for a chance to win an Xbox Kinect prize pack and exclusive VGA gear. The Philo platform also presents an opportunity for fans to chat live during the broadcast and share their awards and comments on the latest gaming news with fellow fans, as well as their social media friends and followers. Philo has done campaigns in conjunction with NBC, ABC, AMC and Comedy Central among others. Recently, Philo did two viewing parties with AMC, where the series stars of 'The Walking Dead' (Norman Reedus and Laurie Holden) chatted live on Philo during the show. In addition, Philo is committed to offering real-world prizes in addition to the exclusive virtual awards, and is currently available on the iPhone, Android and Web."
  • Interactive TV games specialist, PlayJam, has announced that it is inviting third-party games developers to publish their titles free of charge on its global connected-TV network. "PlayJam's Software Development Kit (SDK) and Publishing Tools allow third-party developers distribution access to the leading connected TV platforms whilst offering added-value features such as tournaments, rewards schemes, leader boards, chat and messaging to drive frequency and loyalty," the company states in its press materials. "Smooth interoperability between platforms is made possible by the company's sophisticated and highly resilient backend management system, Phoenix, facilitating billing, centralized user accounts and real-time reporting." PlayJam has also announced that Liberty Global-owned UPC Broadband is rolling out a dedicated PlayJam games platform across its pan-European digital network.
  • A company called Popsy Interactive has unveiled a free, smartphone-based, two-screen interactive TV application, called Popsy, which it bills as "encourag[ing] audiences to use their smartphones to play along as they watch their favorite sports team or program from home, at a sports bar, or live at the stadium. Viewers are rewarded for their participation," the company explains in its press materials. "As they participate, the app gathers real-time, in-depth data on their demographics and behavior, enabling advertisers the ability to better target audiences directly." A demo video of the app is embedded above.
  • Pushbutton has announced that it has signed a long-term strategic partnership with LoveFilm (often referred to as "the European Netflix") that will see it developing LoveFilm services for multiple digital platforms and devices and acting as "an extension of [LoveFilm's] internal development team." The first fruit of the companies' partnership is the launch of LoveFilm's service on the PlayStation 3. According to the companies, the partnership will ultimately allow LoveFilm to "rapidly develop [its] service's multi-country, multi-territory and multi-product deployment." In other Pushbutton news: 1) The company was recently tapped by the BBC to build a version of the BBC iPlayer for BT's Microsoft Mediaroom-powered hybrid DTT/IP platform, BT Vision. According to Pushbutton, which last year won an award from Microsoft for the quality of its Mediaroom design and build work, its Mediaroom expertise was a significant factor in its selection for the project. 2) The company announced at TVOT NYC Intensive that it is opening an office in Canada, led by its newly appointed director of product development for North America, Shane Wilson.