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Is ZillionTV the Future or a Pipe Dream?

by March 09, 2009
When you look into ZillionTV, Does ZillionTV look back at you?

When you look into ZillionTV, Does ZillionTV look back at you?

ZillionTV is one of those ideas that sounds almost too good to be true. Buy the box (with an estimated $100 startup fee) and with no monthly charges you get nearly unlimited access to shows on demand. Of course, we already have stuff like this including Roku and PlayOn and it is here now - not waiting for the fourth quarter of 2009 for a launch. If you read the info out there, it definitely sounds like more of the same. Ad supported, content partners, blah, blah, blah. While I'd like to believe we'll see a whole new player at the table, I'll believe it when I see it. Too much of what I'm reading about ZillionTV screams "Marketing BS, Ahoy!" and not actual functionality.

Part of the plan is for interactive commercials with "points" for watching/interacting with them. Sure, we've heard of such ploys before but how does that actually work? If they are giving away credits to content that they are providing they have direct control but if not they are beholding to the manufacturers. Even if they get those features working, I'm betting you end up with ZillionTV provided prizes rather than any sort of gift certificate to a store.

Not to mention that all the info on ZillionTV suggests that much of their success will be tied to their partners. They'll provide the vehicle, the partners supply the content. Is that really what will happen? Why would content providers move to a new, untested, unaccepted box when they've got not only Roku on the market but Blu-ray players, receivers, and displays on the way with network capability? Why go through the extra time and expense just to support an unproven product?

Oh yeah, the ads.

For example from the above article:

The viewer would then browse a catalog of VOD titles, whose exact makeup is still to be determined, and would be shown a certain number of preroll ads (which could be interactive) before their selected content plays... [ZillionTV] plans to offer a loyalty program, designed to reward viewers for watching programming they're interested in and interacting with advertising from categories they've personally selected. The loyalty points could be redeemed for material goods -- like a Gap gift certificate, for example -- or for a "material and emotional" reward, according to Gauthier, a former Visa executive: "Maybe you get to watch the new Harry Potter movie one week before everyone else."

See all the "shoulds" and "plans" and "coulds" and "maybes?" Those are pretty important in this context. The real question that you should be asking yourself is what is the deal with these ads? They make it sound like you're going to get only the ads you want and even purchase what you see on the screen. But that means that ZillionTV will need your credit card number and address. In order to get your loyalty points, ZillionTV will have to monitor your viewing habits. The more I look at it, the more it sounds like big brother that you have to pay to get. With this sort of oversight and control, I'm starting to see how ZillionTV plans on signing all those big studios and content providers. We'll see what ZillionTV actually releases (if they ever do, many of these startups end up never bringing a product to market) but I, for one, will need a few reassurances before I go plopping my money down on this one.


About the author:
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As Associate Editor at Audioholics, Tom promises to the best of his ability to give each review the same amount of attention, consideration, and thoughtfulness as possible and keep his writings free from undue bias and preconceptions. Any indication, either internally or from another, that bias has entered into his review will be immediately investigated. Substantiation of mistakes or bias will be immediately corrected regardless of personal stake, feelings, or ego.

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