Verizon is planning to take its TV programming to the iPad early next year. At a press demo of new FiOS features at the home of company CTO Shaygan Kheradpir, Verizon showed off an iPad app that would pull live streams of channels from the FiOS system. Reuters reports that the "What Hot" app would let the viewer choose the channel from a touch-screen menu that may also have a range of sorting options.
While this sounds like the much-discussed but never implemented "TV Everywhere" model, the Verizon plan is not quite that flexible. Because of licensing right with the major content providers, a distinction may be drawn between TV viewed in the house of a subscriber and TV viewed outside of the home. Verizon told Reuters that it did not plan to pay its content partners more if customers used the service in their home. "When you take it outside the home there are conversations we're having about how this will work," says Strategy Planner Shawn Strickland.
Apparently the technology has already been put in place for this to happen and it all boils down to negotiating rights. According to CNet, one Verizon executive argued that this extra screen (or tow or three) in the house worked to the benefit of content because it allowed for more diverse viewing among individual family members without the need for another set top box. In fact, arguably, as more devices, including TVs, become WiFi-enabled the set top box itself could be phased out. As IPTV, FiOS was designed to work from the cloud anyway, so devices could conceivably access the same programming anywhere without the hardware intermediary of a box. FiOS is planning to release mobile apps that will carry video on-demand services later this year. The iPad is just the first of other tablet executions, including an Android version. While the tech is ready, the FiOS iPad app likely won't get out from under lawyers' scrutiny until early 2011.
Actually, better than eliminating the set top box, a Tablet-ized second, third or fourth household screen also eliminates the clunky remote that also gets in the way of better ITV experiences currently. The prospect of a portable and relatively cheap TV screen that moves with you around the house is even more compelling when attached to a touch interface. One can imagine much more interactive kinds of video content that had eluded the set top box and TV environment working much better here. From games to multiple-angle shows to in-show voting to activating pop-up data (a text recipe during a cooking show?) a touch screen would overcome a number of hurdles.
First, it is truly personal and likely being viewed by one person. A natural problem with ITV had always been that interactivity is a highly personal experience but TV is social. Who in the room of people controls the options interactive TV allows? Talk about fighting over the remote. With a tablet the experience is as individual as the PC desktop and allows much greater interactivity.
And think of the value of the feedback loop a touch interface might supply to content providers. Traditional media's understandable knee jerk response to TV Everywhere is to protect their own property values. But as the media moves onto different platform there is also a much greater opportunity to see how the user is interacting with the content directly. Perhaps the question for media shouldn't be whether and at what cost their content can go to new platforms, but who gets to the torrent of data the emerging platforms will give back.