Verizon Pushes Innovation with Social Net Interactive TV Play

Last week, Verizon announced that FIOS users will have access to a Widget Bazaar product that provides access to popular social network sites such as Twitter and Facebook, as well as widgetized web content from ESPN among others. FIOS plans to evolve the service into another incarnation of the online app-stores that have taken over the public conscience.

The dashboard concept shows great foresight, and if designed correctly, it would fill the gap for something that Internet users would benefit from. Users suffer from information overload and most struggle to manage their presence on various social networks. Add to that the proliferation of news and information, and users face the “firehose effect”, more information than most can handle. Recent research shows the resulting effect, many users stop Tweeting or stop going to Facebook after only a few uses. People realize it takes an effort to manage their online personas, so due to frustration and lack of control they wind up leaving.

Verizon’s dashboard is a start, it gives users a framework (the dashboard), yet lets people customize what they want to see. Many online services give users the same control, however none have emerged as the aggregator of choice that solves all shortcomings. And my feeling is that the end all must include a built-in real-time search component that sifts through the data to present what you want to see, and allows you to dig in if you want more.

Besides getting it right with the application, and the numerous interactions with TV content that become possible, this is another example of why competition in the phone and cable space benefits everyone. No longer permitted to sit on local monopolies and simply collect monthly fees, cable companies must now provide better service than telco television, while telcos must work that much harder to convince long time customers to change. Competition spurs innovation. The outcome, value-added services, such as this Verizon Widget Bazaar and Comcast’s iPhone application to program DVR functions remotely, and the various services that Tivo is bundling into set-top boxes as it fights for survival.

With innovation, customers win, and win big. After stagnation for many years in local television delivery, expect lightning fast change in the next 5 years. Most people are not aware of the power within set-top boxes or at the head-end of cable systems. Power that to this point that has not been close to utilized. One issues these companies face, staying flexible and innovative in the face of deteriorating prices and low-cost online challengers. Will technology be enough, or do they need a la carte service to survive in the long term.

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