For the second week, one of the most interesting new content apps I’ve seen isn’t actually content — it’s about how to reach the video content you want. Last week, Comcast (NSDQ: CMCSA) CEO Brian Roberts showed off Xfinity Remote, a programming guide that can control viewing through certain set-top boxes. At Google (NSDQ: GOOG) I/O Wednesday, Clicker.com CEO Jim Lanzone unveiled Clicker.tv, a version of the start-up’s online video programming guide to make 10-foot on-screen navigation easier, no set top required. Clicker got a star turn at the Google keynote to show off the potential of HTML5 and the upcoming Chrome Web Store. (The Clicker demo is embedded below and the beta version is live; here’s the Comcast demo.) Both drew instant raves for apps that appear to solve real consumer needs and break new ground at the same time.
The two companies couldn’t be more different. Comcast is the largest cable operator in the U.S. and is on the verge of becoming one of the leading content providers, if its acquisition of a majority stake in NBC Universal (NYSE: GE) passes regulatory muster. Not quite a year old, Clicker has a nice amount of funding that wouldn’t make a rounding error for Comcast. When it comes to the internet though, size doesn’t always matter. Xfinity Remote is an example of how Roberts’ wants to pick up the pace of innovation. Lanzone is rolling out new product and updating the rest at a pace Roberts would envy. (To be fair, Clicker is writing on a clean slate, while Comcast, like most of the cable industry, has a long legacy of kludgy program guides to overcome.)
Both want to help consumers easily navigate a complicated viewing universe across devices and platforms. Roberts showed Xfinity Remote, on an iPad but told me he sees it working on all devices and variations being offered by other cable operators. Clicker has an iPad-optimized site– Lanzone expects the iPad to be “one of your remotes” — but, as Clicker.TV coded largely with HTML5 illustrates, it’s not locked into any browser or device.([It also can work with certain remotes.)
But at its most basic, Xfinity Remote is a subscriber-retention tool, something Comcast hopes will keep users engaged and paying. Clicker is building a company. It wants to attract users, who will fuel its various revenue plans. Lanzone tells me the company already makes money from referrals to subscription services. Planned revenue streams include search (he was CEO of Ask.com), pay for navigating users to purchases, its own ad network, syndication to other websites.
Six months since launch, it's too soon to tell how successful Clicker will be as a company. It's not too soon to say it understands usability and meeting needs.[I finally had a chance to use Clicker.tv it from10 feet via the Media Center connected to my living-room set. Try it that way as soon you can.] The demo starts at the five-minute mark.