Yahoo’s interactive TV widgets are ready to sink or swim. Amazon, Blockbuster, Facebook, and Due Maternity are among a number of brands set to launch the widgets in the next “two or three weeks,”according to Patrick Barry, VP of Yahoo Connected TV.
YouTube and Twitter also recently launched widgets through the platform. Yahoo’s initiative began early this year after striking agreements with Sony, Samsung, LG Electronics, and Vizio so that their TVs would be manufactured with a preinstalled microchip that enables the platform. In May, big box retailers began selling the TVs, which feature the widgets at the bottom of their screens and can be accessed during programs with a remote control to view products or content.
Expect the offering to get a big multimedia push this fall, during the holiday season, and into Super Bowl weekend by the TV manufacturers involved. “This is a [brand-new] feature for them,” said Barry. “I think you are going to see a lot more marketing and promotions in the next few months.”
He compared the way the widgets are seen by television viewers to an apps menu on a smartphone. For the widgets to appear on screen, the viewers have to first turn the feature on in the sets. Viewers control which brands’ widgets, if any, are available during programs. The widgets work only for digital cable and satellite subscribers.
When a widget surfaces, the viewer can choose via the remote control to view free content, or purchase immediately downloadable content when offered from retailers like Amazon and Blockbuster. He also hinted that physical products which involve order fulfillment will eventually be sold through the widgets. YouTube offers free video content through its widget.
So exactly who gets a cut of the sales? According Yahoo spokesperson Lucas Mast, “If there is a monetization component, that is handled between the TV widget creator [i.e. the advertiser client] and the TV manufacturer in a revenue sharing model. Alternatively, given that we are working directly with the TV manufacturers, the publishers can work with us, and we can help to streamline the process.”
Meanwhile, advertisers like Amazon and Blockbuster have created their widgets on Yahoo’s free developer platform, either in-house or via a third-party service. After the brands complete their versions, Yahoo reviews the widgets and submits them to the TV manufacturers.
One of the advertisers set to launch a Yahoo widget soon, Due Maternity of Santa Barbara, Calif., plans to use it to sell products in the multichannel sense by promoting its Web site and a toll-free number. “Ultimately, we are looking for direct sales,” said Albert DiPadova, VP of the online retailer for expecting moms. “But because it’s an entertainment-based concept, it allows people in an entertainment mode to interact with your brand in a new way. It will hopefully be fun, engaging and brand building. And then, if it leads to their logging onto the Web site or launching a coupon code online, great.”
Tivo has offered advertisers the ability to promote custom entertainment-based content through its DVR platform for years. In July, the firm extended its longtime relationship with Best Buy, with plans to add its technology to televisions and other products sold exclusively at the consumer electronics chain. In 2007, TiVo and NBC Universal signed a multi-year agreement that allowed advertisers to display interactive tags in their TV spots that allow viewers to watch expanded content before returning to the program.