Interactive TV got a bad name back in the nineties when poor execution (and financial meltdowns) took all of the momentum out of the iTV movement. So some people are quite reasonably skeptical when the topic of interactive television comes up today. Fortunately the environment – from technology standards to market competition – has changed radically. As one of the execs on yesterday’s interactive TV panel put it: It looks “real” this time.
With EBIF and tru2way rollouts happening now, interactive TV is only one part of the enhanced television game. Updated program guides are top of the list on operators’ tru2way agenda (Comcast’s Mark Hess called it “job 1”), and, as we finally confirmed late Tuesday, Time Warner Cable has partnered with Motorola to bring out multiroom or whole-home DVR using the tru2way platform.
In addition, the retail market is poised and ready to bring out new tru2way devices to plug into the cable networks. Comcast’s Hess laid out some of the challenges ahead, including the chicken-and-egg problem of which comes first: the network, the apps, or the hardware? However, he also predicted that more retail tru2way devices will filter out later this year, with CES 2010 set up to be a major showcase for new tru2way product launches.
Perhaps the right term for the industry’s attitude now is cautiously optimistic. Everyone is quick to do a reality check when the hype gets a little too loud, but at the same time, there is real excitement about the potential for enhanced television on this go-around. It really does look “real” this time.