Last week at the Consumer Electronics Show we got a sneak peek at the latest incarnation of Yahoo Connected TV and we were excited about what we saw: the first Internet TV device to bring passive and personalized Internet content to its users.
Watching a boxing match? Cast a vote in an online poll on who's going to stay upright and who's hitting the mat. Checking out the shopping channel? Purchase items directly from the comfort of your sofa without pulling out the laptop. Yahoo Connected TV is about to change how we think of Internet TV forever... but is it edgy enough to really lead the pack?
Yahoo is calling this new feature "broadcast interactivity" and says that it will "engage TV viewers like never before." The program is slated to begin sometime during the first half of 2011 and will allow content providers to pair its regular TV content with interactive content like polls, little tidbits of information (think Pop-Up Video that can be changed in real time), shopping capabilities and more. The pilot program will begin with ABC, CBS, the Home Shopping Network, Showtime, Ford, Microsoft and Mattel as partners.
So far, the majority of Internet TV has come in the form of content-providing apps like Netflix and other Web-based apps ported over for use, such as Twitter. The things is, the simple act of watching TV is left untouched with most current solutions.
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In addition to serving up this sort of personalized content, the newest version of Yahoo TV will also give users the ability to push content from their iOS and Android devices directly to the TV screen. Until now, Yahoo TV has been available only as an integrated platform on a number of Internet-enabled TVs. Starting this year, Yahoo will also be releasing a D-Link device that will allow consumers to get Yahoo Connected TV for any HDMI TV.
The big question is, with interactivity decided upon by the content provider, will a system like Yahoo Connected TV be the real "cable cutter"? Networks routinely block access to their streaming Web content on other Internet TV devices, but if they can pair interactive content, polling, advertising and other opportunities with streaming content, perhaps they will be able to loosen the reins.
The only reservation we have is in the implementation - do we really want constant polls on our screen? Will the only real benefit be character context for your favorite sitcom and the ability to shop on the TV? We know this will be exciting for some, but we want to see this same capability used to provide context for breaking news, connect you with personalized recommendations for live content based on your browsing, or extra contextual data in the form of user-chosen information overlays. We wonder, from looking the example images, if Yahoo has the edge to pull this off or if it's simply lighting the way for the real innovation. Just last week, for example, the Logitech Revue Google TV was jailbroken, opening up the platform to developers, the likes of which we expect to push the boundaries of Internet TV. We asked Yahoo about the developers and were told that this interactivity would only be available to pilot program partners, at least initially.
Either way, it's the first step in truly changing how we experience Internet TV.