How Yahoo Is Making Its TV Platform More Interactive


Yahoo is hoping that consumers have finally warmed up to the idea that television shows should be interactive, where viewers can answer trivia questions, read factoids about actors and purchase clothing similar to what TV characters are wearing -- without diverting their eyes from the screen.

It's old-school interactive TV of the sort that AOL, Microsoft and a bunch of online start-ups failed with at the height of the Internet bubble, before broadband technology was mainstream or consumers were interested.

At CES in Las Vegas, Yahoo will show off its interactive improvements to its Yahoo Connected TV platform, which is already in 6 million homes and boasts 50,000 on-demand movie and TV titles from Blockbuster and Amazon.com, along with eBay shopping, Facebook posting and other niceties.

The improvements turn television from what used to be called a "lean back" medium to a "lean forward" one, where viewers can delve into shows in ways that they'd otherwise need a laptop computer and Internet connection to do so.

On board so far is CBS' Hawaii Five-0, Showtime Boxing, HSN and advertisers Ford and Mattel.

With Five-0, viewers can use their remotes to learn about the locales, actors and characters portrayed. HSN lets viewers use their remotes to directly purchase items highlighted on live TV, and Showtime Boxing enables fans to get detailed information on the fighters, including videos. They'll also be able to make fight predictions.

Ford lets viewers of its TV commercials customize the cars they might be interested in and find dealers in their area. Mattel is creating documentary videos and games based on its Barbie brand.

By some estimates, about 60 percent of U.S. television watchers do so with a computer nearby, often surfing the Internet and watching TV simultaneously. This, says Russ Schafer, a senior director of product marketing for Yahoo Connected TV, is evidence that they are interested in interactive TV.

"People have found the value," he said. "It's just as simple as navigating from one channel to the next.

"We think we're going to change TV," he added. "All the discovery is done and we're presenting it to you."

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