Interactive TV News Round-Up (V): Virgin Media, TiVo, DirecTV, zeebox

--Virgin Media Provides Usage Stats for its VOD Platform and its TiVo-Based Hybrid-TV Service
--Virgin Media's TiVo Service Doubled Subscriber Base in Q4, May Add Netflix and Lovefilm
--DirecTV Begins Offering TiVo HD DVR Nationally
--zeebox Rolls Out Support for Tcommerce-Enabled Advertising

Because the [itvt] editorial team has been working on The TV of Tomorrow Show 2012, we are covering stories in this issue in round-up/summary format.

  • UK cable operator, Virgin Media, claims that its VOD platform and its TiVo-based hybrid-TV service are exceeding expectations, and has provided some statistics on usage of the services. "Customers watched more TV on-demand than expected in 2011 as the advent of Virgin Media's TiVo Service accelerates dramatic changes in how people are watching television," the company states in its press materials. "One year ago Virgin Media predicted its customers' growing love for TV on-demand would drive a significant increase in the number of programs watched at a time that suits them. The company anticipated total on-demand views for the year would exceed one billion. The final total was 1,004,447,198, an overall increase of 14% on 2010. Virgin Media TV customers sat down to watch On Demand for a combined total of approximately 490 million hours. If a single person wanted to watch this much television back-to-back, it would take more than 56,000 years. ITV's 'Coronation Street' was the most watched catch-up show, while 'The Vampire Diaries' was the most popular complete series. With people still spending as much time watching linear broadcast TV as they did the year before, the growth in on-demand viewing is answering the question of 'What's on?' with 'Whatever you want.' During 2011 Virgin Media also made its revolutionary TiVo Service available to new subscribers for the first time. As the UK's first next-generation entertainment platform, it seamlessly combines the live TV schedule with On Demand, as well as the best of the Web. This allows Virgin Media to add even more via a dedicated Internet connection that delivers further programming and powers interactive apps which can build engagement and consumer excitement around films such as 'Harry Potter' and shows like 'True Blood.' Research from 2011 confirms TiVo's power to help customers personalize, control and find what they want as well. 88% of customer searches were for programs outside BARB's top 50, with TiVo enabling people to easily navigate the growing number of channels and on-demand content, not just those at the top of a TV guide. This is enriching the entertainment experience for households across the country as well as bringing new and niche content to the awareness of wider audiences. The game-changing service features a highly intelligent recommendations engine which learns to predict and suggest shows that a household will like. With either a 500GB or a market-leading 1TB of recording capacity available, the average number of recordings stored per box is 90, spilt equally between those set up by the customer and those saved and recommended by TiVo. Within three months, TiVo users are typically looking at these recordings more than they do the traditional TV guide. Customers are also using the iconic TiVo thumbs to 'like' or 'dislike' shows eight million times a month on average...Key statistics at a glance: 1) 1,004,447,198 total on-demand views in 2011. 2) Approximately 490 million hours watched on-demand. 3) Over 200,000 more homes are regularly watching On Demand since the end of 2010. 4) 'Coronation Street' topped the seven-day catch-up TV chart for the second year running. 5) The complete first series of 'The Vampire Diaries' proved the most popular TV box set. 6) Science fiction comedy 'Paul' (including in HD) was the top film of the year. 7) Jessie J's 'Price Tag' is 2011's most watched music video. 8) Virgin Media TiVo searches amount to 1 million in a typical month. 9) 88% of searches are for programs outside the BARB top 50. 10) TiVo users store on average 45 recordings at any one time. 11) TiVo's recommendations engine stores on average 45 recordings per box at any one time. 12) Within three months, TV EPG viewings are typically surpassed by views of 'My Shows.' 13) 2.4 million apps launched in a typical month, for on average 21 minutes a time."
  • In related news: 1) Virgin Media says that its TiVo service added 273,000 net subscribers during the fourth quarter, bringing the total subscriber base for the service to 435,000 (i.e. 12% of its TV customer base). 2) Virgin Media CEO, Neil Berkett, told Bloomberg last week that the company is in talks to add Netflix's and Lovefilm's instant streaming services to its TiVo-based service. "We want TiVo to be completely open," he said--though he cautioned that discussions are still in the "early days."
  • In other TiVo news: DirecTV is now offering the company's low-end TiVo HD DVR across its national footprint, following a 10-market launch last December (note: DirecTV initially began offering its subscribers TiVo service in 2000; in 2005 it ceased actively marketing the service, but the companies rekindled their partnership back in 2008--see the article published on, October 7th, 2008). "With the TiVo HD DVR from DirecTV," TiVo states in its press materials, "users can: 1) Easily set Season Pass recordings that will automatically record all of a user's favorite shows each week so they'll never miss an episode. 2) Create WishList searches, which allow users to set up automatic recordings for TV shows and movies based on keywords--such as their favorite actor's name, sports team or personal interest. 3) Take advantage of the TiVo Suggestions feature which intuitively discovers users' favorite shows and automatically, records similar shows. 4) Effortlessly find their favorite shows in HD across television and on DirecTV Cinema. 5) Record up to 100 hours of HD programming or 400 hours of SD shows. 6) Record two shows at once. 7) Access more than 7,000 on-demand movies and shows at no extra charge."
  • zeebox, the second-screen social-TV company that was co-founded by former BBC iPlayer chief, Anthony Rose, last Thursday announced support for tcommerce-enabled advertising. "In a world first, UK users will be able to purchase products advertised on TV through their tablet or smartphone in real time," the company states in its press materials. "Starting today, users of zeebox will be able to buy products they see advertised on TV with just a few clicks. It works like this: within seconds of a TV ad appearing on screen, a corresponding click-to-buy button appears--as if by magic--in zeebox's real-time tag stream. Each tag is marked with an icon that denotes whether the advertised product is a song, product, travel service, etc. Clicking on the tag takes the user directly to the product page of a trusted Web merchant such as Amazon or Tesco, or to the brand's Web site for more information. Since launching in October 2011, zeebox has led innovation in the market of social-TV apps, uniquely enabling consumers to discover TV content through their extended social graph, to follow their favorite celebrities' TV viewing, and to automatically get more information about the programs they're watching. zeebox knows what consumers are watching, and engages them with relevant content and ecommerce opportunities in sync with live TV...Clickable TV ads are just the beginning. Zeebox is offering brand owners the opportunity to create targetable, trackable second-screen ads in synch with their TV commercials--thus enabling them to extend the reach of TV advertising and providing true measurability and accountability of its effectiveness." Said zeebox CEO, Ernesto Schmitt: "This is the first truly scalable approach to transaction-enabling TV advertising across all ad categories. Consumers get the convenience of being able to react instantly to a TV advert, while brands benefit from shortening the distance between ad impression and product purchase." Added CTO Anthony Rose: "Making TV ads clickable and interactive has been the holy grail for TV advertisers. Previous attempts to deliver this via red-button and similar services have suffered from lack of Web integration, an easy way to do comparison shopping on your TV screen, and ability to buy from popular stores on your TV. By moving this functionality to your smartphone or tablet, and delivering an experience that is synchronized to the show you're watching on TV, we think that zeebox finally delivers on that magical click-to-buy promise."
North America