Zone TV CEO on interactive TV and living in the FAST lane

Jeff Weber's been in the video game long enough to remember when the getting was good with pay-TV and it seemed like everyone, especially new entrants like the telcos and satellite TV players, were on a solid glide path.

Weber, who once headed up video product for AT&T and its U-verse services, shifted gears years ago to take the CEO slot at Zone TV. These days, he's focused on an older TV idea – interactive television – that has found new interest thanks to IP connectivity and optimism about the category from both operators and programmers. And he's growing FAST, or free ad-supported television, with its Zonify offering.

Zone TV is a 20-year-old company that cut its teeth on interactive, walled garden-style services, landing deals with pay-TV providers such as AT&T, Comcast, Rogers and Cox Communications. That has led to recent interactive offerings for properties such as HBO's Game of Thrones and the new prequel series, House of the Dragon. Zone TV later expanded into the world of FAST, using manual and machine learning techniques to create streaming channels featuring short-form fare and getting distribution through various pay-TV platforms and retail platforms such as Roku and TiVo.

Weber joins the podcast soon after Zone TV landed a fresh batch of funding – a $22.5 million round from Block Communications, a new partner tied to Buckeye Broadband and MaxxSouth Broadband.

Some of that funding will be used to enhance Zone TV's interactive-focused Engage platform and expand into longer-form fare, including TV shows and movies.

You can download a lightly edited transcript of the podcast here. If you want to skip around and listen, here are a few topics discussed during this podcast:

  • Weber provides an overview of Zone TV's business, including its original interactive platform, Engage, and its move into the world of FAST (01:19)
  • A look into how Zone TV intends to grow its offerings and business by enhancing Engage and expanding its FAST offering with longer-form content, and why having Block Communications on board as a partner is important for Zone TV (5:00)
  • Why interactive television, a TV dream for so long, is finally making its mark (15:00)
  • Why interactive, branded offerings are important for media companies and programmers as consumers have access to more content than ever (23:00)
  • Weber puts on his pay-TV hat for a moment to explain what he would do amid today's challenging environment and why he thinks pay-TV still has plenty of runway (29:00)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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