Yahoo is working with cable and broadcast programmers and advertisers including ABC, CBS, HSN, Showtime Networks and Ford to provide enhanced interactive TV features through broadband-connected television sets and other devices -- cutting pay-TV providers out of the equation.
The Yahoo initiative, dubbed "broadcast interactivity," is based on the Yahoo Connected TV platform, which brings Internet-enhanced content on select TV products. Yahoo is working with consumer-electronics partners including Broadcom, D-Link, Haier, MediaTek, Sony and Toshiba to enable the broadcast interactivity pilot on their devices in 2011.
Yahoo plans to launch a pilot program in the first half of 2011, and is showcasing examples of the broadcast interactivity feature at CES. The Internet company said three major advertisers -- Ford, Mattel and Microsoft -- also are planning to work with Yahoo to deliver interactivity with their TV advertising.
"Our collaboration with leaders in television and brand advertising, combined with the innovative technologies we're pioneering, signals the beginning of a new era of highly personalized, Internet-enhanced television," Yahoo! Connected TV vice president Ron Jacoby said in a statement. "Imagine an immersive, real-time TV experience that brings people even closer to the programs and brands they love by enabling them to play along while they watch their favorite shows."
By contrast, Google's closely watched Google TV effort -- touted as a way for consumers to access scads of Internet video on TV -- has been blocked from playing online video hosted by major broadcasters, including ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox, as well as several cable programmers including Viacom.
According to Yahoo, its broadcast interactivity feature lets TV programmers create apps that let viewers vote for a reality-TV participant, get more information about characters or make e-commerce purchases while watching a show.
Examples of broadcast interactivity Yahoo is demonstrating at CES include:
CBS: Viewers of Hawaii Five-O could view facts about the show and learn more about the actors, characters, and setting by using their remote controls.
ABC: ABC primetime shows could provide actor information and view photos and videos during certain scenes right from their TVs while watching the show.
Showtime: Showtime Boxing fans could access detailed fight information including photos and videos, test their knowledge of the boxers, and vote for the boxer they think will win the match.
HSN: Viewers could directly purchase an item highlighted on the live show and take advantage of specials of the day, using their remote controls.
Ford: TV viewers watching a Lincoln commercial could find local dealers, customize their dream cars, view Lincoln luxury lifestyle videos, and more.
Mattel: Viewers of a Barbie TV commercial could take Barbie polls, play Barbie dress-up games or view Barbie documentary videos.
The Yahoo Connected TV service already includes a collection of more than 100 apps, including those from CNBC, Clear Channel Radio, NBC and QVC.
Also at CES, Yahoo is showing "three-screen" device interactivity. Demos include an Android phone used as a smart remote control for Yahoo Connected TV, a tablet device used in sync with an on-air program, and the ability to "flick" videos from the tablet or phone to a big-screen TV for shared viewing.