TV programmers and advertisers won’t create interactive applications targeted at pay TV subscribers until tens of millions of advanced set-tops are deployed, executives at an IPTV World Forum conference said Wednesday.
 
Content producers will begin to produce more interactive programming for U.S. subscribers when a critical mass of 20 million set-tops capable of running the Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format (EBIF) specification from CableLabs are deployed, Verizon director of product development and management Joseph Ambeault told attendees at the New York City event.

“As you get that critical mass and the audience starts to fragment more, now there is a reason to do it,” Ambeault added.

AT&T has been aggressive about marketing interactive TV products to its U-verse TV subscribers, including an application it created recently for golf’s Masters Tournament, which allowed subscribers to access an interactive leader board and an archive of videos. But AT&T executive director of content Franz Kurath said it would be difficult to get advertisers to back interactive programming until they can create ads that run on multiple cable systems.
 
“It will be challenging until you have significant reach, or they can deploy that same application on other platforms,” Kurath said.

One factor limiting the potential of interactive TV programming delivered through IPTV systems is the remote control, Analysis Mason partner John Krzywicki said. A FiOS TV subscriber, Kryzywiki said he had a hard time finding Lawrence of Arabia with Verizon’s interactive program guide, and suggested that operators should deploy keyboards to subscribers.
 
“The QWERTY keyboard – that’s going to have to happen. That’s part of the navigation system (subscribers) are looking at,” Krzywicki said.

Verizon is beginning to use its video platform to allow subscribers limited access to certain Twitter feeds and individual Facebook accounts through its new Widget Bazaar Applications Marketplace. And the telco also plans to give subscribers access to user-generated content from blip.tv, Veoh and other sites. (For more on the Bazaar, click here.)
 
“If I don’t put it on our screen, (subscribers) are going to go to some other screen to consume it anyway,” Ambeault said regarding the telco’s decision to offer Twitter and other Web applications to FiOS customers.

—Steve Donohue

The Daily

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