Verizon Launches Twitter, Facebook, Fantasy Sports and Internet Video Widgets for FiOS TV
--Also Launches "Widget Bazaar" App Marketplace, Announces Plans to Offer FiOS TV Widget SDK
Verizon is set to make several major announcements about its FiOS TV platform today. It will 1) unveil interactive TV services which it has developed with Facebook, Twitter, ESPN, Veoh, blip.tv and Dailymotion, and which it says will create a "truly converged Internet-to-television experience" that will allow FiOS TV subscribers to connect with one another while watching TV and view a range of online and personal PC-based videos on their TV screen; 2) launch a Widget Bazaar applications store, loosely modeled on the Apple App Store; and 3) launch an open development platform, enabling developers to write interactive TV applications for FiOS TV, which will be made available through the new Widget Bazaar. "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," Shawn Strickland, Verizon's VP of marketing, said in a prepared statement. "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. People of all ages and backgrounds are living their lives online today. They increasingly want to expand their online lives beyond their computer to other networked devices in the home. This especially holds true for their TV's, which remain the favorite entertainment source at home."
The new Widget Bazaar applications marketplace, which is located within FiOS TV's Interactive Media Guide, is launching with the Facebook and Twitter widgets, as well as with a fantasy football widget from ESPN. The Twitter widget allows FiOS TV subscribers to follow tweets related specifically to the program, move or sporting event they are currently watching--which, Verizon claims, will bring a "new level of community and interactivity to watching TV." It also allows them to select from a list of top Twitter topics, so that they can view tweets on those topics; search for specific tweets; and create and save a favorite topics list. However, it does not currently allow them to send tweets directly from the TV. The Facebook widget, meanwhile, allows FiOS TV subscribers with Facebook accounts to use their remote control to log in, 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 is billed as providing on-screen access to personalized ESPN Fantasy Football points and football statistics, including rosters, box scores, scoring leaders and player information. According to Verizon, the ESPN widget is available, at no additional charge, to FiOS subscribers who are also registered ESPN Fantasy Football players.
Verizon says that, in the coming months, it plans to add "dozens" of new free and paid applications to the Widget Bazaar that have been developed internally and by third parties (note: according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the company plans to control the Widget Bazaar's content line-up fairly tightly and expects it to contain only around 40 applications six months or so from now; the Apple App Store currently contains around 50,000 applications). To aid development of FiOS TV widgets by third-party developers, the company says it plans to shortly publish an SDK that will use the Lua programming language; it says it expects that its decision to open up its platform will "unleash a plethora of innovative, television-centered applications."
Later this month, Verizon says, customers who subscribe to FiOS TV's Home Media DVR service will be able to access a new "Internet Video" feature that will allow them to search for and view on their TV sets user-generated videos from blip.tv, Dailymotion and Veoh (note: according to the Wall Street Journal, Verizon does not currently anticipate launching, for example, Hulu or Netflix widgets that would offer professionally produced programming, preferring instead to push its own VOD service for such content). According to the company, the feature's search functionality will allow searches of the three video-sharing sites individually or all at once, either using key words or by selecting between "most watched," "top rated" and "recent searches" options. Customers will be able to view thumbnail screenshots of videos that appear in their search results and bookmark favorite videos, among other features, the company says. In addition, Verizon says, a new "My Videos" feature will allow customers to view on their TV screen personal videos stored on their PC's. According to the company, both the "Internet Video" and "My Videos" features will be offered at no additional charge to Home Media DVR customers.