Twitter on TV

July 2009

Summary:        Now we have a new form of convergence:  social networking and (cable) TV.  Not a bad move.  Verizon announced two new “products” in its “social TV” initiative.  One is a set of widgets that enable viewers to connect with other viewers through various social networks—while watching TV.  The second enables viewers to watch user-generated content from certain websites.  One more step in convergence.  Of course, it is a bit like the Zeno’s Paradox of digital convergence.  You could also say:  It’s about time.

Through its FIOS TV service Verizon is taking a few bold steps towards digital convergence.  First, Verizon will create an application store with widgets developed together with some notable social networks—Twitter, Facebook, Veoh and a few others.  So, a FIOS subscriber can follow tweets they select from a list—including the programming they are watching.  They can log into Facebook (but not yet Twitter) to update their profile as to what they are watching at that moment.  An SDK will be launched soon.

The second new product permits a subset of subscribers to start searching and viewing UGC from certain video sites, including Veoh and Blip.TV.

So What?

Well, it is another step closer to digital convergence.  Using TV programs to tweet is an obvious stimulus to that convergence, when you consider how often TV shows are the subject of tweets.  Tweeting about these programs is of course nothing new and these widgets do not (yet) enable tweeting through the TV.  What it does permit is to enable a viewer to see whose twitting what and when.

So that’s why it’s like Zeno’s Paradox.  Remember:  Walk halfway across the room, the half the remaining distance, then half the remaining distance—and so forth.  This is a little like that:  closer, closer, closer, but not quite there.

But the move is just the first and we can expect more.  The application store will propel developers to pay attention to crossing the chasm between the TV, the PC and the mobile phone.  Think about it:  Twitter is (largely) phone-based and Facebook is (largely) PC-based-platform.  This appeals to the developers.  FIOS competitors will figure out their own way to merge social networks with TV programming.

OK, now the gears are churning.  Think of characters using Twitter in the programs—and they are matched by Twitters available to FIOS users.  And so forth.

Stay tuned.