TV is still the experience; broadband is still the pipe

Jim Barthold, FierceIPTVThere has, of late, been some effort to dismiss the value of television as just a component of a broadband experience. The misguided thinking is that TV is peripheral, a video component to a wider ranging broadband initiative.

This line of thinking elevates the broadband delivery method from a pipe to an experience and places TV on that pipe as just another piece of content. It has been fostered by over-the-top video providers who see broadband as Internet and Internet as a TV delivery system but see no intrinsic value in the traditional TV channel viewing grid.

Some of this misdirection, no doubt, has been created by the statistics that providers such as Verizon (NYSE: VZ) laid out when they it issued first quarter earnings reporting that FiOS added 188,000 overall broadband subscribers but "only" 169,000 FiOS TV subscribers. Despite the fact that cable operators would drool over gaining that many TV subscribers, there are those who believe that broadband, again, is leading the way and TV is a peripheral.

No doubt this afternoon when AT&T (NYSE: T) announces its first quarter earnings, broadband will be ahead of U-verse TV and, more specifically to AT&T, wireless will demand far more attention than wireline broadband or TV.

All of this focus on broadband as the be-all-to-end-all certainly flavored my recent conversation with Greg Consiglio, president and COO of second screen app provider Viggle. While Viggle depends on broadband for the most part to connect its users with television programming to gain points, it is not a broadband-specific program. For Viggle, it's all about television: what people are watching, how long they're watching, what kind of loyalty they're showing and, especially for advertisers, what kind of market they present.

And to mine this kind of information Viggle needs access to a TV service provider that just happens to have a broadband connection.

The Viggle business model, Consiglio told me, depends on viewers being attracted to television as delivered by traditional service providers across IPTV, cable and satellite. It depends, he said, on "getting the word out that there is loyalty around television."

It is, in the end, all about television; helping people watch it and culling the information about what they watch.

"We think we're doing three things," he said.

First, Viggle helps people "discover what to watch." The average American may watch 36 hours of TV a week but only 10 of those hours are "appointment viewing." With a plethora of channels available, Viggle helps its partners point viewers to where content can be found.

"We focus on discovery; what to watch, what your friends are watching, what has incentives, what has games you can play."

In short, TV is still the old viewing experience—just expanded interactively via the Internet.

The second thing Viggle tries to accomplish is to enhance the TV viewing experience by "making the TV show that you're watching more fun, more rewarding, more entertaining" through games and quizzes and polls.

And finally, Viggle gives the viewer a return on the investment made in viewing a TV program.

"It's not just about social," he said. "Social is just one element of this and it's not just about (rewards) points. It's about experience and discovery and making TV more rewarding."

It is, in short, about the transformed 21st Century TV viewing experience. And that's something that comes from a pay TV provider with a set lineup of channels.--Jim

Click here to read FierceIPTV's Hot Seat interview with Greg Consiglio of Viggle