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Adjust Your Set — and Your Expectations — Says TV of Tomorrow

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The TV of Tomorrow (TVOT) show hit New York City today for a one-day intensive event, as compared to the multi-day TVOT events held in San Francisco, California. The show is run by Interactive TV Today, and brings together TV and video executives eager to know how television will change in the interactive age.

The event was heavy on vendor presentations, but its sessions were the most enjoyable when panelists traded thoughts on key issues.

"I think free advertising is always the model that wins," said Rick Mandler, vice president of digital media advertising for Disney/ABC Digital Media Group, in an early session on the relationship between the audience and the content provider. If people were willing to pay for TV, he said, HBO would be in a lot more homes. People will tolerate online video having the same ad loads as commercial television, he believes, if ad loads are increased gradually over time.

"People don't hate ads, they just hate bad ads," said Tal Chalozin, CTO of Innovid.

When the session moderator asked about the growing importance of subscription video-on-demand (SVOD), Rich Greenfield, managing director and media analyst for BTIG, noted how surprising it is that the best content in the world - Disney's - was now outside the typical ecosystem thanks to Disney's recent deal with Netflix. OTT (over-the-top providers) cut out the problems of that ecosystem and give viewers what they want, he said.

Was the rise in SVOD binge viewing a problem, the moderator asked? Not as long as the viewers are paying their monthly fee, said Chase Norlin, CEO of Alphabird.

While the day was heavy on showcases, the audience didn't mind as many wanted to hear about solutions that could take their networks or their content into the streaming world. Anthony Rose, founder and CTO of Zeebox, drew a standing-room-only crowd for his company presentation. The U.K.-based Zeebox launched in the U.S. less than two months ago, he said, and is well on its way to becoming the single second-screen app for all broadcasters.

"The revolution isn't about TV of tomorrow; it's doing things right now to power shows," said Rose.

Rose demonstrated how different broadcasters are already using Zeebox, and said that it was the perfect vehicle for shows that were starting in a few weeks but lacked the time or budget to create their own app. Zeebox will soon bring an ad platform to the U.S., Rose said. It will allow advertisers to buy a second-screen ad that's synchronized with what's on the TV screen.

The second-screen was the day's biggest topic, with many executives presenting options for creating and monetizing second-screen viewing experiences. Steve Callanan, CEO of WireWax, showed off his company's tool for creating clickable hotspots in video. The more overt uses were the most successful, he said: "You've got to be in their face with it."

Representatives from Viggle, Shazam, Trendrr, and ExMachina presented their own second-screen solutions. Tom Engdahl, CEO of Magic Ruby, suggested that one value in the second screen is keeping people alert during commercial breaks, so they don't go into an alpha state. The need is for interactive content designed for connected TVs, he said, something that doesn't interrupt the television show. Getting attention is everything.

"The holy grail is the eyeballs of the viewers," Engdahl said.

TVOT 2012

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