Interactive TV News Round-Up (VIII): VDS, Vidiom, Virgin Media, TiVo

--VDS Launches Broadcast-Synchronized Social-TV Tool, Watercooler
--Vidiom Slashes its Staff
--Virgin Media Promotes TiVo-Based Hybrid-TV Service via Pop-Up "Private Members' Club"

Because the [itvt] editorial team has been busy this week working on the TV of Tomorrow Show 2011, we are covering recent news in round-up/summary form. Once again, we anticipate that it will take us a few days to catch up with all the news we plan to cover: so if your company has sent us a press release or briefed us on an announcement, and you don't see your news covered in this issue, please bear with us.

  • Broadcast automation software company, VDS, has launched a product called Watercooler which it bills as the first automated social media tool for television. "With Watercooler by VDS, an exciting new product for the generation of social media posts synchronized with television content playback, broadcasters can easily engage viewers and create additional revenue opportunities," the company states in its press materials. "Watercooler incorporates exact timing information from station automation, enabling synchronized tweets or Facebook posts throughout the broadcast, engaging viewers with program-centric information. Watercooler uses the complete program schedule on a per-channel basis, including the true start time, which is much different than the scheduled start time. Segment durations, time code markers and any other associated metadata can be referenced as information. With more than 500 million Facebook users and 175 million Twitter users, advertisers have been waiting for this exact model for interactive engagement with their consumers. Broadcasters can create Watercooler events to occur at set points during the program day. With user-defined presets, Watercooler can send a pre-composed tweet or post a pre-composed message to Facebook in advance of a program, at a specific point in a program, or even in advance of, or during a specific commercial spot. Viewers with specific interests can opt into reminders as to when a certain event will occur during a program; for example, what time a specific recipe will be demonstrated on a cooking show...Watercooler is a complete turnkey system housed in a single small-footprint server. The user interface is distributed and available to staff with the right credentials anywhere in the facility. Watercooler requires minimal engineering support after installation and operates independently of technical operations. This allows promotions personnel to create Watercooler events without requiring technical staff involvement. Watercooler can also be used to send show reminders to fans to tell them when their show will air in their location and on what channel, or to highlight a season launch or finale. It can post episode information for upcoming series prior to that episode airing. With Watercooler, broadcasters can highlight program dialog discussion points by inviting fans to join a dialog about a particular scene in a program. For example, Watercooler can send a message out in advance of the show, 'See Mike's new girlfriend at 9:11 ET, hot or not?' Or it can send at 9:22 ET, 'Did Wendy really just dis her?' Or it can send at 9:24 ET, 'Did you just see what Sam that really justified?' Broadcasters can add their own metadata time code points for each program and can use these to create rules as needed. Watercooler can also be used for product placement contests by sending hints on the product placement, e.g.: 'you'll see the secret sponsor in 5 minutes. Be sure to reply for your coupon.' Watercooler can also alert fans as to when their favorite television commercials are airing so they can alert their friends. Further, Watercooler can send e-coupons for sponsored products at specific times in a show for viewers who have opted into a coupon program."
  • Vidiom, the interactive TV company that recently lost its VP of marketing, Mike Malcy, to Alticast, and whose parent company, ADB, recently announced the resignation of its CEO, Francois Pogodalla (note: for more on both developments, see the articles published on, March 16th), has laid off most, if not all, of its US staff, according to an article by Jeff Baumgartner in Light Reading Cable. Vidiom was acquired by ADB back in 2006.
  • Virgin Media is offering what it bills as a "private members' club" at the Soho location of the charity, House of St. Barnabas, from March 28th through April 21st, in order to promote its TiVo-based hybrid-TV service and its fiber-optic broadband offering to invited press and other influencers. Dubbed "Our House," the "club" will have "10 individual spaces--seven rooms, plus a bar, private garden and its very own chapel," Virgin states in its press materials. "Each of the seven rooms will feature the very latest technology from Virgin Media and its partners, tailored to suit individual needs. This includes The Broadband Lounge, powered with 100Mb fiber optic broadband, and WiFi throughout the venue, including the private garden. It will also feature The TiVo Lounge, allowing guests to check out the very latest next-generation TV service whilst providing the perfect place to relax. The Gaming Room will showcase the best in connected gaming and, whilst mobile phone use in the house will not only be allowed but actively encouraged, there will also be a quiet room for those looking to catch a private moment. 'Our House' will have a busy schedule of events and activities in place throughout the four-week period--including film screenings, intimate acoustic gigs in the chapel, photography exhibitions, plus private launch events and meetings. Members will be kept up to date with a weekly newsletter and select events will be open to the public, with details published in advance confirming how to secure tickets. Open Monday to Friday, 9AM to 11PM, members of 'Our House' will be able to book rooms, host meetings, order refreshments and make use of all of the facilities throughout the day. Membership will be free and is by invite only from Virgin Media."
North America