Sony, Ensequence to Pitch Over-the-Top ITV Ads and Content

CE Maker Cuts Deal to Embed Ensequence’s Platform Into Connected HDTVs

Sony Electronics struck a multiyear pact to embed Ensequence's interactive TV platform software on all of its Internet connected TVs, with Ensequence planning to sell the ITV capabilities to programmers and advertisers.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Beginning in the first quarter of 2013, all new Sony TVs will ship with Ensequence’s ITV platform software. In addition, the software will be available for Sony’s 2011-12 models of connected TVs through software updates.

The initial reach of the Ensequence platform on Sony will be in the low single-digit millions, according to Ensequence CEO Peter Low.

Ensequence intends to become a “one-stop shop” for delivering interactive ads and content across Sony devices and other manufacturers’ connected platforms, Low said. He predicted that the installed base of connected TVs will be roughly comparable to today’s pay TV households within seven years.

“It’s the beginning of our buildout into the connected-television world,” Low said.

To date, usage of Internet-connected TV features has been relatively low -- with many consumers not even aware their HDTVs have access to additional content or apps. Ensequence’s Low said usage of smart TVs will increase if they can deliver content or ads that enhance the viewer experience.

“When you create the right product, in the right environment, viewers will use it like crazy,” Low said. “There’s no doubt in our mind that people will use this.”

Ensequence's ad units include clickable banners, landing pages, product request forms, coupons and surveys. TV show capabilities include polls, trivia games, photo galleries, location-based check-in, social status updates and more.

The Ensequence platform handles deploying, tracking and managing ITV elements. Viewers will see an on-screen "bug" to launch interactive content related to the ad or show they are watching. The Sony implementation uses Sony’s automatic content recognition (ACR) capabilities that are integrated into its connected HDTVs; however, Low said Ensequence’s system is “ACR-agnostic” and will work with any technology or standard.

“Television viewers are craving and demanding more immersive and active experiences with their favorite TV programming,” Nick Colsey, vice president of Sony Electronics’ business development division, said in a statement. The partnership with Ensequence will create “a viable platform for programming producers to push the envelope in viewer engagement.”

According to Ensequence’s proprietary research, adding interactive elements to TV content and ads increases programming ratings by up to 20%, brand recall by as much as 50% and intent to purchase by up to 40%. In addition, viewer interaction and repeat visit rates exceed 30% and 50% respectively.

For example, 31% of Verizon Communications’ FiOS TV customers accessed an on-screen app for Olympics-related news, info and video highlights developed by Ensequence for NBCUniversal's coverage of the 2012 London Games.

New York-based Ensequence, founded in 2000, has traditionally focused on selling its ITV solutions to programmers and TV distributors. The company's customer lineup includes Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Dish Network, Verizon Communications, NBC, MTV, Nickelodeon, ESPN, Showtime Networks, Disney, Turner Broadcasting System, HBO, QVC and AMC Networks.

Ensequence’s investors include Myrian Capital, a venture and capital management firm affiliated with the family that owned pet-food company Iams.