Yahoo’s TV Widgets Gain Traction with TV Manufacturers and Content Firms

As if holding the attention of channel-flippers wasn’t tough enough — now television advertisers may have to contend with “content snackers.”

At least the buzz for Yahoo’s TV widgets coming out of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last week suggests so. And marketing dollars are starting to back the hype: a major flat-screen manufacturer ran spots during last weekend’s NFL playoff games while prominently featuring the interactive widgets.

The widgets allow viewers to access content from the newest TV models with a push of a remote control button. They appear at the bottom of the screen, looking similar to the way software programs appear on a Mac computer dock. When end users activate a widget, they can call up its content (video clips, for the most part) without switching the channel.

“This is about ‘content snacking,'” said Jeff Whatcott, SVP of marketing for online video services firm Brightcove. “I think, ultimately, TV ads are going to have more to compete with for consumers’ attention… We’ll see more ads in the widget content as well as an advertising strategy over time.”

Brightcove, based in Cambridge, MA, last week unveiled its roster of clients who have created apps via Yahoo’s TV widgets program. These included Time, Inc., TheStreet.com, Cars.com, Wine Spectator, Slate, and The Hollywood Reporter. Whatcott said that the publishers were mostly repurposing clips made for the Web.

He said that hard-sell videos like product demos probably wouldn’t work with the interactive TV medium, while suggesting that UGC efforts could be extended into the television space. “When people are in front of their TVs, they are looking for entertainment and are in ‘entertainment mode,'” Whatcott explained. “If you were running a contest of some sort, you could actually create a widget and make it available… It could be [positioned as], ‘Hey, see the winners or the top-rated videos from this UGC campaign that we’re running.'”

At the CES show, Yahoo said it is increasing availability of its TV “widget engine,” announcing partnerships with Chinese electronics brands Hisense, ViewSonic, MIPS Technologies, and Sigma Designs to include the widgets in their consumer devices. They join Vizio, Sony, Samsung, and LG Electronics as brands that are on board with the program.

Amazon, Blockbuster, Facebook, Twitter, eBay, and Flickr established apps in Yahoo’s widget engine months ago. It was also revealed during the CES that The Weather Channel, NBC, Napster, and DailyMotion are now in the fold.

Chad Stoller, BBDO’s EVP/director of digital strategy for North America, came away impressed by Yahoo’s demonstrations at CES. “Consumers are going to be interested in bringing social lives into living rooms,” he said. “Sharing allows us to discover a lot of content. When you can turn your television into a discovery device, I think there’s going to be some interest.”

Yet Stoller downplayed the idea that marketers should adapt an urgent attitude when it comes to building campaigns for TV widgets. “It’s too early,” he explained. “I also happen to think that if you start bombarding the platform with ads, it starts looking like another cluttered [environment].”

While Yahoo is the clear-cut leader in this niche so far, competition appears to be coming down the pike from telecoms/media firms. For instance, Verizon launched its “widgets bazaar” last July for its FiOS TV subscribers. Twitter and Facebook have announced widgets on the Verizon platform, while dozens more are reportedly in the works.

Zach Rodgers contributed.

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