Verizon's FiOS TV is going social. The company just launched two new social-TV services: The Widget Bazaar applications store and Internet Video on TV.
Verizon worked with Facebook Connect, Twitter, ESPN, Veoh, blip.tv, and Dailymotion to create a converged Internet-to-television experience that lets FiOS TV subscribers network with others while watching TV. Subscribers can also search and view online, personal PC-based videos on television screens.
The demand is clear and growing. According Nielsen, there are 87 percent more online social-media users now than in 2003, with 883 percent more time devoted to social-media sites. In February, social-network usage exceeded Web-based e-mail for the first time. Nielsen also reported that the number of American users frequenting online video destinations has climbed 339 percent since 2003, and time spent on video sites over that period increased almost 2,000 percent.
"With FiOS, passive TV becomes social TV, part of the sweeping cultural shift that's changing how people connect with one another to share ideas, information and entertainment," said Shawn Strickland, vice president of marketing for Verizon Telecom. "We're working with some of the most popular companies on the Web to create the foundation for a high-quality, engaging Internet-to-TV experience that will only expand and grow richer."
Introducing TV Widgets
Verizon's Widget Bazaar applications marketplace, located within FiOS TV's Interactive Media Guide, is launching with free Facebook, Twitter and ESPN Fantasy Football widgets. Verizon said it will add new widgets developed by the company and third-party developers in the coming months.
The Twitter widget lets subscribers follow tweets related specifically to the program, movie or sporting event they are watching. Subscribers can also select from a list of top topics to view tweets associated with current topics and trends, search for specific tweets, and create and save a favorite-topics list.
Subscribers with Facebook accounts can log in to Facebook through the FiOS TV Widget to update their Facebook status with messages about what they're watching, view their own photos, and view their friends' photos and status updates. And the ESPN Fantasy Football widget provides on-screen access to personalized ESPN Fantasy Football points and football statistics, including rosters, box scores, scoring leaders, and player information.
"Once again, Verizon is at the innovation forefront with this first-of-its-kind integration of interactive social multimedia into the FiOS TV platform," said Kurt Scherf, vice president and principal analyst for the industry research firm Parks Associates. "And because the major cable-TV companies have yet to say when they'll be able to deliver these capabilities, FiOS TV will be the only provider to offer these exciting new features for the foreseeable future."
Searching Online Video
In its second social-media move, customers who subscribe to the Home Media DVR service will have access to a new Internet Video feature that will allow them to search and view on FiOS TV user-generated online videos from video-sharing sites blip.tv, Dailymotion and Veoh.
Consumers can search the sites individually or all sites at once using keywords or selecting the "most watched," "top rated," and "recent searches" categories, view thumbnail screen grabs of videos that appear in search results, and bookmark favorite videos, among other features. A new My Videos feature will let these subscribers view via FiOS TV personal videos stored on their PCs.
"This is an incremental way of bringing the Internet video experience to the television. It's very similar to what Yahoo is doing with its widget platform," said Phil Leigh, a senior analyst at Inside Digital Media. "The difference is Yahoo's platform is open to everybody and it's being incorporated by leading TV-set manufacturers like LG and Samsung. But Verizon is distinguishing itself from other cable operators with these services."