Interactive TV News Round-Up (IX): Starz, SyncTV, African Music Channel, Roku, Samsung, Visiware

--Starz Ends Contract-Renewal Negotiations with Netflix
--SyncTV to Deliver African Movie Channel to Roku Players, Samsung Connected TV's
--Visiware Launches PlayAlong Second-Screen Interactive TV Solution

Because the [itvt] editorial team has 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 several 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.

  • Premium programming service provider, Starz, says that it has ended its contract-renewal negotiations with Netflix, a move that will deprive the latter of movies from Disney and Sony Pictures. Starz on Thursday issued the following statement, attributed to its president and CEO, Chris Albrecht: "Starz Entertainment has ended contract renewal negotiations with Netflix. When the agreement expires on February 28, 2012, Starz will cease to distribute its content on the Netflix streaming platform. This decision is a result of our strategy to protect the premium nature of our brand by preserving the appropriate pricing and packaging of our exclusive and highly valuable content. With our current studio rights and growing original programming presence, the network is in an excellent position to evaluate new opportunities and expand its overall business." Starz issued the statement on the same day that Netflix's controversial subscription fee increases (see the article published on, July 12th) went into effect.
  • SyncTV, which offers a platform for distributing video content to Roku and other connected-TV platforms, as well as mobiles and other devices (note: for more on the company, see the article published on, March 25th, 2010), has announced a partnership with UK-based VOD service, African Movie Channel, that it says will see it delivering "hundreds" of classic, recent and new-release African films to global audiences via Roku set-tops and Samsung connected TV's.
  • Visiware, a French company best known for its interactive TV games, has officially launched PlayAlong, a solution which, as its name suggests, is designed to allow viewers to play along with TV shows. The solution has actually been in deployment for some time now: according to Visiware, it has enhanced 200 programs in seven countries, and has generated over 8 million game plays. "Thanks to Visiware's PlayAlong platform, hundreds of thousands of viewers can now play TV games simultaneously using their computer, smartphone or digital tablet," Visiware states in its press materials. "For Visiware, it is a totally new form of a long-term, interactive television experience which can revolutionize and reinvent interaction between the viewer and the channel. Visiware offers a turnkey solution with a massive multiplayer platform offering live management tools and Internet multimedia applications. This allows the producer to initiate live or pre-recorded interactivity, modify quiz questions in real time and send messages directly to their viewers. PlayAlong contributions are many: 1) A variety of players can participate at the same time using various platforms while enriching the program and promoting the creation of communities while generating Internet buzz. 2) Players receive answers and statistics in real time online and on air. For example: 'Blondes are faster than brunettes' or 'Denver is better with football questions than LA." 3) Producers and channels have access to a new source of income which represents a new challenge for TV." Said Visiware chairman, Laurant Weill: "PlayAlong allows the creation of a new generation of television. Thanks to Amazon's Cloud Computing solution, our technology is robust, reliable and supports hundreds of thousands of players at the same time. It is exciting to interact at last, to see live feedback from other viewers, to share online. Apart from games, we are expanding the PlayAlong concept for sports programs, interactive advertising and live political debates. We are very happy and proud that our technical platform has been chosen by Endemol, Antena3, SBS6, TV2, ZDF and TF1."
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