Samsung and Yahoo Interactive TV Feature Raises Questions

Watching TV and Web surfing are different experiences. Do we need them to be the Same?


The rise in smart TVs has led once again to an interest in interactive applications, specifically TV-based e-commerce. Samsung apparently is wading into that territory via a new deal with Yahoo.

A news release this week announced that Samsung entered a multi-year partnership to integrate Yahoo’s Broadcast Interactivity platform into 2012 smart TV models. The platform uses something Yahoo calls SoundPrint, which is an automatic content recognition system that connects the content you’re watching with interactive and e-commerce opportunities.

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A Yahoo web site offers these examples of how the system works:

• Consumers watching a 2012 Mercedes-Benz C-Class TV Ad, will be prompted to view and interact with information, pictures and videos for the 2012 Mercedes C-Class Sedan and Coupe.

• When a Fidelity Investments TV Ad plays, TV viewers can watch a video demo of the Fidelity iPad app and download it immediately by using the QR code displayed on the TV screen.

• When watching a Sony camera, tablet or 3D TV Ad, TV viewers can vote for the product feature that is most important to them. For example, what is most important to you when selecting a camera? Low light Shooting, Fast Shutter Speed or Interchangeable Lens.

• Showtime Boxing fans could access detailed fight information including photos and videos, test their knowledge of boxers and vote for the boxer they think will win the match.

• Shoppers watching HSN could directly purchase an item highlighted on the show, accessing real-time inventory data and taking advantage of specials of the day, using their remote control

That all could be kind of fun, but it’s also a little disconcerting. Yahoo says SoundPrint “enables real-time identification of live or recorded, cable, broadcast and satellite television through audio fingerprinting.” It’s the identification part that give me pause. So if SoundPrint is tracking what we watch, what exactly is it doing with that data? Is it leaving cookies on the TV? Is it selling the data to third parties?

TV is largely called a “lean back” experience, and while the second screen sensation (watching TV while browsing on a smartphone or tablet) is real, that doesn’t mean we want our TV time to turn completely into a web-like experience. The news release says SoundPrint will enable “subtle, on-screen prompts informing them that additional content can be accessed,” which sounds a lot like the web ads that follow me around on my laptop.

About a week ago I ordered a new laptop online. For the next two days (until I got around to clearing my cookies), every web site I visited would show me laptop advertisements. Social network sites use similar approaches to target ads, though they often miss the relevancy boat. Do I want an episode of Walking Dead to be accompanied with ads for meat tenderizers or coupons for Applebees?

On the other hand, I understand that the content industry is in a state of panic over how DVRs and streaming are eating into their traditional advertising coffers, so they’re looking for solutions. This is one of many that could help, but it rubs the wrong way. Or is it just me?

If this model doesn’t appeal to you, Samsung tells me that the feature’s default mode is off, so you have to actively turn it on for it to operate. The only option you have for avoiding similar functions on your computer’s browser is security software.

Below is a video from Yahoo looking for advertising partners. The good part starts at around 00:54.


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