Thursday, March 11, 2004
5:00 - 7:00 p.m.
20 Ames Street
of the digital video recorder (DVR) has significantly altered
the ways many consumers relate to television content
offering a simple way to access what they want to watch when
they want to watch it. How has this new interface altered consumer
behavior and their perceptions of the medium? What new models
for interactive television are starting to emerge in research
labs and think tanks around the country?
Bernoff is a principal analyst for Forrester
Research who has done extensive analysis of the ways that
TiVo and other digital recorders are impacting American media
Herigstad of Schematic
TV is a leading figure in the American Film Institutes
workshop on interactive television design.
to JOSH BERNOFF, the shift away from broadcast to video-on-demand
programming is the most dramatic change happening in television.
The traditional "channel up, channel down" method
for navigating is not sophisticated enough for the viewing possibilities
of the future. Interface design will have a strong impact on
which viewing methods or devices will ultimately succeed.
showed an example of what he believes is poor design: the interface
of TV Guide Interactive, a program guide for digital cable.
The main menu contains a clutter of buttons that are not necessarily
organized by what functions are used most often. The programming
grid shows too few listings at a time, and requires the user
to scroll frequently. On all pages, one-third of the screen
is used for advertising programs and channels. The interface
is not optimized for the benefit of the user, and therefore
says interface designers should ask three basic questions: Who
are the users? What are their goals? And how can they achieve
of understanding users is by constructing models of different
types of viewers. These "personas" are based on user
goals, attitudes, and behaviors distilled from observation or
interviews. Personas are presented in vivid narrative descriptions.
For example, one might be a middle-aged woman who recently purchased
digital cable and watches mainly primetime programs; another
persona could be a college student who watches late at night.
Since there are many personas, it is useful to study those that
represent a large percent of viewers. Designers need to think
about how each persona might use their interface.
is an impoverished interaction, involving only a remote control
and a screen. There is a limited set of tasks to accomplish.
When thinking about users' goals, designers should avoid the
"second system syndrome" and not add so many functions.
When things require too much effort, users give up easily.
identified some basic TV interface design principles. The first
and most important principle is designing for features that
people actually want. For example, WebTV had a great interface
design, but it made no difference because nobody wanted to use
the Internet on his or her television. A survey that polled
6,000 U.S. consumers showed the television enhancements in which
people were most interested.
five responses were the features of a Personal Video Recorder,
or PVR like TiVo: 53% said they wanted to skip commercials easily,
while 47% wanted to be able to watch one show while recording
another. About one-third of the sample wanted to pause live
TV; use an on-screen program guide to find shows; and easily
record all the episodes of a given show.
further down the list of desirable features were those of video-on-demand.
Over a quarter of the sample desired on-demand access to first-run
movies, premium channel movies, and both cable and broadcast
network shows. The sixth most popular request was for one-button
access to weather, which was the only non-programming related
task. The survey clearly showed what people did not care to
do on television, such as get sports statistics during a game,
or buy movie tickets.
important principle is to have a consistent, asymmetric design
for both the screen and remote interfaces. Common tasks should
be easy to do. For example, given the enormous demand for access
to weather, it could have its own button on the remote. Not
all viewer actions are equally frequent or important, and the
interface should reflect that. Finally, details matter because
they can be the difference between a merely usable interface
and a lovable one.
Bernoff gave a demonstration with his own TiVo, which he considers
a lovable device. TiVo's only weakness is a challenging set-up,
but afterwards it is easy to use and meets all the important
design principles. The homepage, "TiVo Central" is
not visually complex or crowded by unnecessary icons. The viewer
can navigate through the menu options using the same few actions.
The programming grid is larger, and recording programs is an
easy task. Finally, an example of how details can add value
to a system is TiVo's time bar, which helps viewers skip through
to incorporate non-TV related features has been successful because
of consistency in design. Some devices have WiFi (wireless fidelity)
access, allowing the user to program TiVo from a computer elsewhere.
Meanwhile, through TiVo the user can access digital pictures
or music stored on the computer. Overall, TiVo is a great example
of obeying interface design principles.
HERIGSTAD believes that television is essentially a collection
of rich media screens controlled by the viewer. When viewers
are faced with up to 500 channels, better navigational tools
are needed for people to get what they want. Herigstad is interested
in exploring other possible control models in such a rich media
environment. He has worked on several experiments and applications
with enhanced television, integrating content with the interface.
The underlying design philosophy in all projects has been to
create a simple but powerful interface.
discussed several examples of creative interface design. An
early system was Time Warner's video-on-demand trial in 1990,
which experimented with navigation in 3-dimensional space. Menu
items were arranged in a carousel format, which the user rotated
with the remote control.
was another electronic program guide with 3-D navigation. Instead
of scrolling through a text grid for programming, the Surfspace
user browsed through several layered "subspaces" of
content. Each subspace was branded by different networks or
themes, and played streaming video previews of shows. Several
shows could be sampled at a time. Users could also customize
the interface, making their own subspace for favorite programming.
also possibilities for interacting with TV programming itself.
For example, Herigstad and others worked with CBS to create
CSI Interactive, an enhanced version of the broadcast
show. On CSI Interactive, the TV screen is divided into
two parts: next to the main action of the episode, a narrow
portion of the screen shows supplementary footage that relates
to what is happening in the story.
showed a clip from CSI Interactive that uses different
types of enhanced content. One example was a "lingering
pictorial remnant" of an interesting detail that was shown
too quickly in the regular episode, such as a fingerprint. Extra
content can also enhance setting. In one scene, an investigator
describes the location of a murder, while the supplementary
screen displays the blueprints of the house. With "multiple
camera view," the audience can view a scene from other
angles, or from the perspective of other characters. With multiple
screens, viewers can do "eye editorial," or choose
what they want to look at, processing the story in a different
method for interacting with programming is used by Turner Classic
Movies. In a multi-player game, viewers pretend to be movie
moguls by making virtual contracts with actors, and monitoring
how their movies fare in ratings. The goal is to sign the stars
that draw the most ratings. Such interactive applications can
be a new way to promote shows.
Herigstad showed a clip from Sci-Fi Channel's miniseries Battlestar
Galactica (2003), which had a gaming component embedded
in the show. Using a Microsoft X-Box, the viewer could participate
in a battle sequence by playing a shooting game as the events
of the TV series unfold in the background. How the player performs
in the game corresponds to what happens in the story. Integrating
gaming elements with television is a further attempt at creating
an immersive experience.
WEISE, CMS graduate student: In CSI Interactive,
did the creators of the show conceive the extra content? There
are artistic reasons for what writers choose to show on screen.
How does the additional material affect the authorship and vision
of the show?
CSI Interactive was a very experimental project. We came
in after the episode was made and added material that we invented.
Since CSI is about forensics, we focused on supplying
technical information. For storyline information, we would work
with the writers. The type of enhanced content depends on the
show, and what it is trying to achieve.
MIT Foreign Languages and Literature: What are the peer-to-peer
possibilities of TV programming? Is there a movement towards
allowing or preventing it?
Media companies want to control their content, so they are against
file sharing. Service providers tend to be on both sides. A
company like Comcast wants to sell broadband service, even though
they know customers use it for sharing and downloading music.
However, they wouldn't want people to download cable shows and
cancel their cable service.
TiVo makes it easy to skip over commercials, it is not interested
in destroying the media business. It also has security features
that limit the kind of file sharing it can do. ReplayTV produced
a rival system that allowed viewers to automatically skip commercials
(as opposed to fast-forwarding through them), and send recorded
programming to other users. As a result, the company was sued
by the networks, and has since agreed to remove those features.
JENKINS, CMS director: In the examples of interactive TV,
there are certain assumptions being made about viewership. The
extra details in CSI Interactive pull you deeper into
the world of the story, making it more real. In the Turner Classic
Movies game, you are pulled out of the world of the films, and
made aware of other things like ratings and promotion. Is there
a model for designing interactive programming?
The model for what we are doing is extended media. We think
that most of the people who watch CSI Interactive would
have already seen the regular broadcast, and wanted to deepen
their experience of it. Turner Classic Movies also assumes that
its core audience has seen the movies before, so their game
extends the life of the media. It is similar to how people buy
DVDs for the added material.
I think the problem with interactive television is not the technology,
but the lack of a model for storytelling. People are used to
interacting with games and watching linear stories. Most attempts
to combine the two have either been linear experiences with
a little interaction, or something so radical that audiences
are not ready for it. There has been no successful model.
In the television
industry, success is determined by measuring viewership. Nielsen
has a monopoly over that metering, and is now trying to monitor
video recording devices and on-demand systems, which is already
a major step for them. If faced with something as revolutionary
as interactive TV, where you cannot quantify the level of attention
people pay to it, Nielsen will not be able to measure it. Unless
they can, interactive TV will not be widely used or successful.
Bernoff (left) and Dale Herigstad
I want to emphasize that what we do is highly experimental.
However, there is a need for new ways of branding and advertising,
because people are skipping commercials. Enhanced commercials
are no longer interstitial, but embedded in games or stories.
We are exploring ways to create spaces that would formally be
called advertising, but are noninvasive, and could actually
add value to the experience. Once TV becomes less linear and
more on-demand, viewers will have a space that is more open
for branded messages.
LLOYD, MIT Martin Luther King Jr. Visiting Scholar: What
is happening in other countries where there is a much stronger
media environment for public service, such as in the UK with
In the U.S., the power is in the hands of major cable operators
and media companies. In contrast, the BBC is the most powerful
media force in the UK, and they are helping to develop standards
that work across systems. The British Sky Broadcasting (B Sky
B) system, which has interactive capabilities, is also well
established and growing.
SMITH: It seems that what you are trying to do with interactive
TV is already being done on the Internet to some degree. Will
interactive TV bypass the networks and go straight to broadband
on the web?
HERIGSTAD: There is actually another model. I believe
that in the future, all enhanced experiences, including cable
TV, are going to come through game consoles such as the Microsoft
X-Box or Sony Playstation, which are capable of delivering richer
JENKINS: Despite being so user-friendly and having the top
functions users desire, why did TiVo have such a relatively
slow adoption rate?
When TiVo first came out, people weren't exactly sure what it
did, and it was hard to set up. Now, they are being built into
cable and satellite boxes. Out of 3.5 million DVR households,
about 1.3 million are TiVos - half of which are DirectTV boxes,
and the other half stand alone units. The EchoStar Dish PVR,
which has the same basic features as TiVo, has the largest market
share. Comcast and others will soon launch their own digital
WILLIAMS: Since television is so powerful in shaping a culture,
do you see an ethical dimension to any of the technological
choices you make?
I only analyze what is happening in the industry, but I do have
some influence on media executives. Ethics is not the first
thing they worry about, but they are conscious of the role TV
plays in society. Over the decades, there has been a steady
shift away from a common media experience to more fragmented
viewing times and channels. The question of who has real influence
in this environment is important. I think the companies like
Comcast, who control interfaces and access to content, are more
important than the content creators like Disney. Comcast's recent
bid to buy Disney reflects this.
WEISE: Since viewers don't want to watch commercials, advertising
that is embedded into interfaces or content seems bound for
failure. Is trying to find another ad model for television worthwhile?
I spend a lot of time looking at that question. Digital video
recorders do have the potential for destroying the advertising
model. Statistics say that four years from now, half the population
will have video-on-demand or DVRs. People with DVRs watch recorded
programming 75% of the time, and skip about half the ads. After
doing the math, you have 30% of the population watching recorded
material, and 20% of all ads are being skipped.
we surveyed say they will reduce spending for commercials by
up to 20%, which is significant. Still, executives are convinced
that advertising and media will continue to be married somehow,
and we need to look for more innovative models. Many are interested
in targeted ads aimed at individual households, which will be
possible with video-on-demand. But that will depend on two things:
precise metering and a means of finding out the demographics
of a household.
audio recording of Interactive
Television is now available.
to listen to the archived audiocast, you can install RealOne
Player. A free download is available at http://www.real.com/realone/index.html.