AttracTV ‘Vidgets’ Look To Transform Streaming Video Via Integrated Apps

Online video streaming of sports content continues to take off, with nearly every sports event seeing record audiences. But, for all of the online success, one issue remain for the majority of video streaming providers: when viewers enter a full-screen streaming experience, the benefits of an Internet-delivered experience — interactive features, polling, communicating with friends on Facebook and Twitter — are quickly unavailable. Enter AttracTV, a provider of “vidgets” that can overlay everything from chat to polls to stats and more over streaming Flash and HTML5 (currently in alpha testing) video via simple plug-ins.

“About three years ago, we looked at the interactive-TV space, and we saw something that was broken,” explains AttracTV founder/CEO Tzahi Sofer.

An international streaming feed of the 2010 NBA playoffs featured vidgets from AttracTV.

“It has been around for 20 years, but it still isn’t working, and it is slow and not connected to the Internet. So we had an idea to combine the Internet world with the video world to make video streaming interactive and engaging.”

The plug-in works with existing media players (AttracTV also has its own streaming player), and applications can be built using a graphical user interface. A “Vidget Engine” manages all of the applications and also tacks usage, stats, and length of engagement.

“The publisher can develop their own vidgets or use third-party vidgets,” adds Sofer. “And the analytics not only show who is watching but what they are doing when they watch, who is opening social-media vidgets, or who answers polls.”

The system is unobtrusive to users, providing a gallery of icons on the screen that represent different vidgets. The user clicks on an icon to open up a vidget and can also click-and-drag it around the screen so as not to interfere with the video content.

It also allows for layering in new advertising messages. A recent Black Eyed Peas concert sponsored by Volkswagen featured a vidget that popped up on the screen promoting the 2012 Volkswagen Beetle. And because the vidgets are incorporated into the streaming player, they are not blocked by pop-up blockers.

The system has already found one big believer: MTV is using it when streaming content for its major U.S. and international award shows. And NBA International last year used the system to layer statistics and social media over streaming video during the playoffs. The system can also link directly to statistical databases, pumping data to viewers in real time.

CSPAN used AttracTV to layer Facebook and Twitter vidgets over streaming of the White House Correspondents' Dinner.

CSPAN recently used the system during the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, allowing users to watch live Twitter and Facebook feeds for the event. And a recent soccer match also pointed to its ability to generate leads.

“There were videos, chat, polls, and a casual game where viewers could win prizes from Microsoft,” says Sofer. “We found that 50% of users participated in the casual game and 25% left details so they could win prizes.”

The system can also automatically connect to a team, league, or network Facebook or Twitter feed so that a user can watch an event and easily stay on top of the buzz among fellow fans.

Sofer sees two game-changers for vidgets: tablets and the second-screen experience.

“Tablets have already proven that people watch more video on a tablet because it is convenient and provides a huge opportunity for interaction,” he says. “And the second screen is going to be just as huge because you can have just the vidget applications themselves.”

The only limitation of the system is that it currently works only for live events. But Sofer says the company will soon bring the technology to on-demand events, opening up a whole new opportunity for sports-content providers.

“You can create a vidget for different commentators or even drop in different stats,” he says. “You can take an experience that was plain, old VOD and add extra value for the viewers.”