Verizon Announces FiOS TV Widget Bazaar

Cable giant Verizon announced two services for FiOS customers, a TV widget bazaar and Internet Video on TV, both aimed at fostering social communication between users.

Broadband and wireless communications company Verizon Communications announced the launch of two social TV services-the Widget Bazaar applications store and Internet Video on TV. The company also plans an open development platform to permit developers to write interactive FiOS TV applications that will be available through the Widget Bazaar.

Verizon worked with social media companies such as Facebook and its Connect service and microblog phenomenon Twitter as well as media companies like ESPN, Veoh, and Dailymotion to create a converged Internet-to-television experience that lets FiOS TV subscribers connect with friends and family while watching TV, plus search and view a variety of online, personal PC-based videos on their television screens.

The new Widget Bazaar applications marketplace, located within FiOS TV's Interactive Media Guide, is launching with free Facebook, Twitter and ESPN Fantasy Football widgets. Through the Twitter Widget, FiOS TV subscribers can follow tweets related specifically to the program, movie or sporting event they are watching. They also can select from a list of top topics to view tweets, search for specific tweets, and create and save a favorite-topics list.

FiOS TV subscribers with Facebook accounts can log into Facebook through the FiOS TV Widget to update their Facebook status with messages about what they're watching, view their own photos, and view others' photos and status updates. The ESPN Fantasy Football Widget provides on-screen access to personalized ESPN Fantasy Football points and football statistics. All the information is available for free for FiOS TV customers who are registered ESPN Fantasy Football players.

Shawn Strickland, vice president of marketing for Verizon Telecom, said people of all ages and backgrounds are living their lives online today and increasingly want to expand their online lives beyond their computer to other networked devices in the home. "This especially holds true for their TVs, which remain the favorite entertainment source at home," he said. "With FiOS, passive TV becomes social TV, part of the sweeping cultural shift that's changing how people connect with one another to share ideas, information and entertainment."

Verizon said later this month customers who subscribe to the Home Media DVR service will have access an Internet Video feature that will allow users to search and view on FiOS TV user-generated online videos from video-sharing sites, Dailymotion and Veoh. In addition, a new My Videos feature will let these subscribers view personal videos stored on their PCs via FiOS TV. Both features will be available free of charge to FiOS Home Media DVR customers and require no additional equipment.

According to a recent report by The Nielsen Company titled "The Global Online Media Landscape," there are 87 percent more online social media users now than in 2003, with 883 percent more time devoted to social media sites. In February, social network usage exceeded Web-based e-mail usage for the first time. The same study reported that the number of American users frequenting online video destinations has climbed 339 percent since 2003, and time spent on video sites over that period increased by almost 2,000 percent.