Fox Recruits Interactive TV Heavy Hitter

DonohueI might’ve buried the lead in an article in today’s issue about an invention from Gary Lauder’s ActiveVideo. While a user interface capable of displaying video feeds from 82 channels on a 4K TV is interesting, the bigger scoop may be that Fox Networks Group recently recruited the interactive TV pioneer behind the invention.

David McElhatten (pictured above), who spent more than four years at ActiveVideo as SVP of studio and services, joined Fox as SVP of media software solutions in May, I discovered while tracking down a photo of the inventor.

Fox officials politely declined to discuss what McElhatten, who reports to EVP of engineering and operations Richard Friedel, is working on. In the 1980s and 1990s, McElhatten led development of software for CD-ROM, Nintendo, Sega and Sony games for Marvel Entertainment and Philips Media Games.

While Fox hasn’t yet launched direct-to-consumer versions of networks like FX or National Geographic Channel, it has resisted the idea of distributing full-length TV shows and movies through free, ad-supported platforms. In 2011, it began limiting online access to TV series to authenticated pay TV subscribers and subscribers that order Hulu Plus.

BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield asked 21st Century Fox chief James Murdoch about his direct-to-consumer ambitions earlier this month.

“When we look at growing … IP streaming in the future, we’re pretty excited about the innovation that we can bring to that marketplace. We’re working hard across the board internally when we think about developing authenticated apps, potentially direct-to-consumer offerings. Some of our competitors have been out there with those,” Murdoch said on a Fox earnings call.

Murdoch also noted that while Fox hasn’t yet gone over the top of its pay TV distributors in the United States, mobile direct-to-consumer distribution has been one of its key strategies in India.

With McElhatten on board, look for Fox to introduce some disruptive products as soon as 2016.

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