Setting a Tru2way Standard for Success

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The cable industry has united to create a new standard platform — Tru2way — which adds interactive capability to TV. And while the jaded side of me thinks that it’s about time, I’m also excited by the possibilities.

Walking through The Cable Show in New Orleans two weeks ago, I saw a variety of TV content with interactive elements — everything from interactive overlays on linear programming that allowed users to vote to playable games to caller ID to shopping. One application I especially liked belonged to a company called Itaas, which added an overlay on music videos so if you were watching one that you liked, you could easily purchase and download the video or cellphone ring tone — very cool!

This is just the beginning: With the establishment of a single, robust platform, there will be many more opportunities for developers and programmers to create even more fascinating interactive content.

I’m hopeful about Tru2way’s potential because, in my experience, industries which have standardized platforms and clear developer monetization channels are the ones that thrive. One of the best examples of this is the evolution of the video-game industry versus the computer games industry. Video games are played on console systems like Xbox, Playstation and Wii, while computer games are played on PCs.

In the late ’80s and early ’90s, revenues for PC games and video games were about the same. But over time, the revenues and market share for the console-game market far eclipsed those of its counterpart. The reason? Standardization of the platform.

Consoles are unique platforms, but they are each a standard to which a developer can create content. In the PC world, this standard didn’t exist. With the plethora of processors, video cards and audio cards, the market was fragmented. That made development incredibly difficult and costly, thus greatly reducing developers’ ability to turn a profit.

I applaud the move to standardizing with Tru2way — it’s the necessary first step to engaging new developers who will create fresh, appealing content and push the Tru2way platform in ways we can’t yet imagine. But before Tru2way can be truly accepted and successful, there is another critical step the industry needs to embrace: Creating a clear deployment and monetization path for these new developers and their content.

Following the model established by the Japanese telco giant NTT DoCoMo , the US wireless operators were able to successfully launch new platforms (J2ME, Brew) and grow huge developer communities because they created end-to-end systems which enabled developers to create content and sell that content. The other key to their success was that the content developer was a respected part of the equation, netting anywhere from 91% (NTT) to 70% of the revenue.

While Tru2way is allowing developers to create content, I have not yet seen a streamlined path which would enable developers to sell or deploy their content easily. “Build it and they will come” is only half of the equation. To build the robust developer community that Tru2way needs and deserves, developers will need its other half: “Show me the money!”