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Overlay.TV and Klickable Make Video, Well, Clickable

I spent last week at the “TV of Tomorrow” (TVOT) show in San Francisco. All the major players were there from the online and interactive TV worlds. Suffice to say, like every major technology trend, there was a jumbled mix of very cool and relevant innovation along with a chaotic blend of competing strategies and pipedreams for deploying interactive and Internet-connected television into our homes. I will share my take-ways from the show in a separate post, but I wanted to highlight an emerging trend I see that will help drive the move towards interactive TV.

By now, most folks are used to clicking on text and pictures as part of their online experience. They know this will give them more information or the source site where the data or image came from. But what about video? What if you could click on the objects you see moving around in video? What if you could easily super-impose your own text, images, or editorial on top of video? Thanks to new “clickable video” tools launched in the past year, this has become a reality not only for professional content producers, but also consumers.

In separate conversations I had a chance to sit down with Benjamin Watson, VP Marketing for Overlay.TV, and Greg Wu, President of Klickable. Klickable is still in beta mode, but Overlay.TV has been out for a year now. They both provide a method for professionals and consumers to overlay objects and info on top of moving video, and then share that video online through the various video portals.

Both podcasts can be accessed here (or use the right sidebar podcast interface).

Let’s start with Overlay.TV since it is further along. In short, Overlay.TV is a tool that lets users add text links, images, and even other videos as an overlay on top of a playing video file. Their software is very consumer friendly and includes a tool for rapidly editing and uploading YouTube videos. For professionals, Overlay.TV provides an API and lab site to create, test, and promote new applications developed using their tools.

For consumers, ever ready to personalize their digital media worlds, the benefits of Overlay.TV are obvious. Ben Watson gave me an example of a popular skateboarder who uploads and sends videos of his skateboarding exploits to his friends. He adds in comments about his jumps and moves, and even links to where to find his favorite equipment or soundtrack music. Another example is a karaoke service where Jonas Brothers fans sing-along to the band using on-screen lyrics and then share the recorded experience with their friends.

Klickable has a great example of the commercial benefits of this technology on their website. They have a video commercial of the New York Trump Soho tower that has clickable pop-ups throughout. As you move through the hotel video you can click to get additional information about the facilities— the size of the conference rooms, the services at the spa, the famous designer and material behind the luxury guest rooms, and the launch of the Italian restaurant— and at anytime you can click a button to speak to an agent about buying a condo unit. Roger Wu said the technology is also perfect for interacting with online communities. He gave me the example of Rachel Ray’s web site, which uses Klickable to provide info-rich media for fans, including ingredients and kitchen tools used in her recipes. Roger points out that Klickable’s technology has other tangible benefits for content owners since it doubles the number of video pageviews (users often go back to retrieve or find tidbits of information they did not see the first time).

Overlay.TV has also embraced the commercial prospects of its technology, having fostered an affiliate community of over 700 vendors and e-tail web-sites. Now, if you see a viral video from whatever means (YouTube, someone emailing it to you, etc.) and you want to buy a product that is tagged in the video, it is only a click away.

Both Ben and Roger reassured me that their respective technologies will not be intrusive to non-users. Besides a subtle tool-bar, it is only visible buy clicking on the video file itself and can also be shut off completely.

Overall, this new technology has the potential to dramatically change how folks interact with video content. In the past, and even now at the TVOT show, most of the conversation was about how to build interactive widgets, advertising, and menu bars surrounding the video on either the computer or a TV. The problem with this approach alone is that it fails to address the “full-screen” problem when viewers expand their player window and minimize all the other clutter on the screen. Now, in a world where TV consumers are increasingly inclined to use their DVRs to fast-forward through commercials and where web surfers have trained their brains to mostly ignore banner and skyscraper advertising, clickable video technologies such as those from Overlay.TV and Klickable offer consumers another way to communicate and express themselves and content producers and advertisers a sure-fire way to draw them in and get them buying again.

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