Verizon Exec On The Future Of TV, When Tablets And Phones Feed An Ecosystem

Last March, I poked fun at Verizon Fios’s antiquated implementation of remote control use, television interface design, use of widgets, and blatant lack of thought regarding how today's audiences actually watch television and consume day-to-day content. Then I received a call from Verizon. After meeting with the design team responsible for creating the experience I had just slammed (nothing uncomfortable about that conversation), I realized two things: First, the aggregation of TV content on multiple devices wasn’t a couch potato’s dream but a soon-to-be reality, and secondly, I’m glad I have Fios.
A company can raise the bar by having devices work together.
The adage “content is king” has become even more important with the growing number of phones, tablets, and other devices that can present content on the customer’s terms. But rather than looking at presenting the same content on multiple devices, a company can raise the bar by having devices work together to provide an overall experience that’s greater than the sum of its parts. (A point made by Gadi Amit, in his post about how Apple might get to $300 billion in sales.) Joseph Ambeault, director of product management at Verizon, describes this scenario: Imagine having access to everything a TV can provide on a tabletlike device, including OnDemand content but also being able to control other portions of your experience beyond just changing the channel with your remote. Last fall, Verizon quietly released Fios Football, an iPad app that took the experience of the RedZone Channel (a channel showing the best sports-show clips) and wrapped it with interactivity and game data. The app displays deeper information than the television (such as scores and player info), but it also allows customers to change channels on the television from the app to view any game as it happens, rather than using the remote control. My take as a customer is that if Fios conducts intelligent experiments, allows for audience feedback, and has the flexibility to react to customer needs, I can rest assured that the traditional remote control will die -- not Ambeult’s words, but my dream. Ambeault’s focus was clear, which was to allow customers to manage their services easily and explore content regardless of the device: “We see a day when your Droid X, your iPad, your computer, your game console, and your Blu-ray player all have the capabilities to not only enable content discovery and functions, but also to enable service management effectively as one whole experience for the customer.” Verizon has to think about other scenarios as well: How will a device support content consumption differently when I’m home versus when I’m at Grandma’s house? Will I be able to bring content with me?
Rest assured, the traditional remote control will die.
Thankfully, Verizon has regular conversations with their customers via their customer panel they call TestTrack. The panel works with Verizon to brainstorm new products and allows Verizon to try product ideas with more flexibility, while still including customer feedback. One of the ideas they’re playing with is solving the warring remote control conundrum, and how to turn that into a positive experience (versus one I could lose my marriage over). TestTrack isn’t the only way they reach their audience; it’s not beyond Verizon's design team to geek out on a couch in a customer’s home over a pizza. When I asked Ambeualt what excited him most about moving forward, he responded, “We’re just getting started on freeing our customers of the legacy TV viewing experience and allowing that to happen without compromise.” Joe, this coach potato has left the couch, with an iPad and iPhone in my hands, and is running full speed into the future screaming, “Freedom!" Don't let me down. [Top image by Thomas Bresson]

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