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Once upon a time, there was a dream called interactive television. With interactive television, the thinking went, people could do things with their television they never could before – comment on programming, vote on reality shows, and respond to advertising offers, to name a few. Marketers and advertisers were excited—the possibility a new and recurring revenue stream seemed assured.
There was only one problem: no one considered how (or even if) consumers wanted to interact with their televisions. The assumption of interactive television advocates that we’d just flip a switch and television viewing would suddenly go from a completely passive to a fully active experience proved false. The contrarians, who insisted interactive television would always be the stuff dreams are made of, were also off the mark; tech-savvy consumers have shown a desire to interact via the television under the right circumstances.
So is interactive television lifting off, or is it still just a niche play, best suited for direct response advertisers? I believe that today the reality lies somewhere in between.
As the rise of rich TV begins to take shape, we are getting a clearer picture of the kind of interactivity that works on the television, and how consumers want to engage with advertising content on the biggest screen in the home. The audience still wants to kick back and relax, but increasingly, they also want to interact with advertising that is relevant and adds value. In short, they want this interaction to be contextualized, rather than constant. I call this user behavior opt-in interactivity. If the consumer wants to interact with the programming or advertising, they can click to their heart’s content. But, if they just want to sit and watch, that’s OK too.
Opt-in interactivity is a consumer-centric approach that has worked very well on Xbox LIVE and is the cornerstone of our philosophy on Xbox. The idea is pretty simple: invite, don’t interrupt. This means invite the audience into an experience that is relevant and adds value. What do I mean by relevant? A great example is the recent American Express campaign that ran on Xbox LIVE. When the Xbox LIVE audience member was in a contextually relevant environment – in this case, where they both buy and use points – American Express offered card members who buy 2,000 or more Microsoft points with their American Express card, a free, 3-month Gold subscription to Xbox LIVE.
Not only was the offer contextually relevant, it also added value to the user – it gave them something in exchange for their engagement (the free Gold subscription). American Express also provided users with downloadable branded themes and gamer pics. In the end, American Express invited Xbox users into a contextually relevant offer which provided a real, yet simple, value exchange. This is a great example of opt-in interactivity; those who responded to the invitation received something of value.
Opt-in interactivity works because it puts the consumer in control. It also works because it’s transparent —we aren’t trying to trick anyone into buying a product or service. Instead, we are acknowledging who they are and what they are interested in. This is one example of the promise of interactive television, and – on Xbox LIVE at least – it’s also a reality.
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This is a good article.
First, I would like to say that your article is right to the point.
Interactive TV just came too early - before anyone actually understood the consumer need, and, indeed - the business models that justify the move.
But today we see it more and more of it - Interactive TV being replaced by the new buzzword in town - Social TV. Interactive TV is getting a whole new meaningful use – when you add the social dimension to it (now that people are used for twitter/facebook/blogs/the Web2.0 World).
I have yet to see even ONE Social TV feature in the upcoming Google TV product, yet, everyone talks about it like it's the future of TV - and why is that? Because today, people DO understand the benefits of social interaction via the net, and want it in their living room experience. Ten-years ago, If I would tell you that one day you'll enjoy writing 140 character massages about your breakfast or your day at work - and share them to the whole world, you would probably think I’m crazy.
Now everyone is trying to be there - We had 2 different researchers talking about Social TV in our IMTC 2025 event (from MIT and AT&T) and even the cable providers are heading there from their perspective (see the Triple Play panel - http://bit.ly/czLkNw). Gaming consoles are far from being gaming only devices these days (and indeed it seems that MS seems to grasp that idea very well). TV experience will be completely different in the next few years.
I am currently writing an article on how inteactive TV adds to the success of reality TV shows such as Big Brother, and I found this article very useful as an introduction to interactive TV- what it offers as an experience... and what it doesnt!