Interactive TV News Round-Up (III): DirecTV, ESPN, Tennis Channel, Espial, Google TV, MeeGenius

--DirecTV Teams with ESPN and the Tennis Channel to Offer Interactive TV Coverage of the US Open
--Espial to Showcase its TV Browser at IBC 2011
--Google Offers "Preview" of Google TV Add-On for the Android SDK
--MeeGenius Launches Reading App for Google TV

Because the [itvt] editorial team was recently on the road for several weeks--and has also been working on TVOT NYC Intensive 2011--we are covering stories in this issue in round-up/summary format. We anticipate that it will take us a few more days to catch up with all the recent news: so if your company has sent us a press release or briefed us on an announcement, and you don't yet see your news covered in this issue, please bear with us.

  • DirecTV is teaming with ESPN and the Tennis Channel to provide interactive TV coverage of the US Open tennis championship. From August 29th through September 5th, customers will be able to access exclusive, live, interactive HD coverage of the championship's outer-court and early-round matches free of charge, DirecTV says. A US Open Mix Channel (701) will allow customers to watch up to six live matches--the main network broadcast plus five bonus channels of outer-court coverage; and customers will be able to select any of the component channels to watch it in full screen mode. Customers will be able to press the red button to see scores from matches in progress on the court channels (702-707), plus the schedule for upcoming matches; they will also be able to see which players are about to take the court, access scores for completed matches, or select "Men's Draw" or "Women's Draw" to access round-by-round charts.
  • Canadian digital TV software company, Espial, contacted [itvt] Monday with an update on the deployment of its Espial TV Browser, which it plans to showcase at IBC 2011 (Hall 5, Booth A18). According to the company, the browser, which is based on Webkit, is now powering connected TV's, digital media adapters, set-top boxes and other consumer electronics devices across the world; provides access to a range of popular search, news, video, photo, social networking and sports sites (note: popular sites that are preset into the browser include Yahoo!, Google, YouTube, Daily Motion, Picasa, Facebook, Twitter, ESPN and more); supports over 25 languages (including Arabic, Hebrew, Chinese, Korean and Japanese); and delivers a PC-like browsing experience, a range of applications and widgets, and support for video, HTML5 and Adobe Flash 10.1.
  • In a posting on its Google TV blog, Monday, Google announced the availability of a preview of a Google TV add-on for the Android SDK (note: at its Google I/O conference earlier this year, the company revealed that it plans to bring the Android Market to Google TV). "With the upcoming OS update to Honeycomb, Google TV devices will be Android compatible," the company explained. "That means developers can build great new Android apps for TV, optimize existing mobile or tablet apps for TV, and distribute those apps through Android Market. While the add-on does not contain all features of Google TV, it enables developers to emulate Google TV and build apps using standard Android SDK tools. It also provides new API's for TV interaction, such as TV channel line-up. Google TV emulation is currently supported on Linux with KVM only, and we are working on support for other operating systems. We're very happy that through KVM we've been able to create a fast Android emulator for TV. Depending on the design and use case, an existing Android app may work well on Google TV as is, or it may require fixes. With the add-on you can test your apps to determine if they would be a good fit for TV and whether any tweaks are required. We are also publishing UI Guidelines to help you with topics like optimizing for d-pad navigation, presenting information for 10-foot viewing, designing apps that work well across devices, etc. The guidelines include information on how certain UI elements on Google TV differ from other Android devices. As with other devices, apps that require features not supported on Google TV won't appear in Android Market on Google TV. For example, Google TV-based devices do not have a touchscreen; hence apps which require touchscreen will not appear. Conversely, if the manifest says touchscreen is not required, the app will appear...These are still early days for Google TV, and this release is another step in providing developer tools for the big screen. While the number of apps available on TV will initially be small, we expect that through this early release of the add-on you'll be able to bring optimized TV apps into the ecosystem more quickly."
  • In other Google TV news: A company called MeeGenius has built an educational app for the platform that allows children to read--or to be read--books on the TV screen. "MeeGenius brings books to life on the big screen with beautiful illustrations, narration, and word highlighting," MeeGenius co-founder, Wandy Yeap Hoh writes on the Google TV blog, "The stories are narrated aloud while children follow along with pictures and highlighted text. The narration, combined with the word-highlighting, promotes early reading skills such as word recognition. The stories include old favorites such as 'The Gingerbread Man' as well as newer titles."
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