Although Yahoo says there is no need to break out the tin-foil hats, the next generation of Yahoo Connected TVs are going to start doing something consumers might find creepy: a new technology dubbed “broadcast interactivity” will automatically detect what a viewer is watching and use that information to help advertisers and publishers serve up content that directly appeals to viewers’ interests.
Yahoo is promising broadcast interactivity will collate information from a users’ viewing habits and platform activity (such as interacting with Yahoo TV widgets) to provide specialized ads, content, and offers that are specifically tailored them. As an example, Yahoo describes a fantasy football fan who is watching a game and engaging in a running commentary about it on Facebook at the same time. Broadcast interactivity will enable the Yahoo Connected TV to potentially serve up an advertisement for team apparel, along with options to bring up more content on the team, including fan blogs, stats, and player info. Yahoo also promises the content can be localizes to a consumer’s physical location: a local pizza place might be able to extend a special offer on deliveries.
Yahoo’s broadcast interactivity technology raises many privacy concerns—what information does the service gather, who has access to it, and can consumers opt out?—but may also disappoint advertisers. While mobile phones are generally used by just one person—so profiling content and usage habits on a phone is potentially revealing to advertisers—televisions more more likely to be shared by multiple people or an entire family, meaning the assembled profile information is likely to be an amalgam of many viewers’ interests and habits. That fantasy football fan isn’t going to want to be inundated with ads and content related to the latest goings-on on the Oprah Winfrey Network; similarly, parents might be shocked if Yahoo Connected TV ponies up racy ads to their children.
The next generation of Yahoo Connected TV will also offer “device control,” which will essentially enable many modern smartphones and tablets to operate interactively with TVs as remotes and input devices. Yahoo also plans to tie that in with advertisers, potentially enabling them to push content to smartphones and other devices for consumers to view on their Yahoo Connected TVs.
Yahoo also plans to launch an app store for Yahoo Connected TV, with app prides running from $0.99 to $99, with 70 percent of revenue going back to publishers and developers.
Yahoo says the technologies are being tested now with “strategic” publishers like CBS, Showtime, and Home Shopping Network, along with advertisers like Ford, Mattel, and Microsoft. Device partners for the next generation of Yahoo Connected TV will include Sony, Toshiba, LG, Vizio, and D-Link—with D-link working on a set-top solution to bring the technology to any television.