By Paul Sweeting
Netflix is partnering with YouTube to launch DIAL, a new app protocol that enables second-screen devices to discover first-screen devices on the same network and launch apps on them. Using DIAL-enabled second-screen apps, consumers will be able to browse the Netflix and YouTube libraries on their smartphones or tablets and then launch the video directly on a DIAL-enabled first-screen device, without first having to boot up the corresponding app on the TV or connected set-top and go through a multi-step process to pair the first and second-screen devices.
As explained on the DIAL website:
[S]uppose you discover a video on your mobile app and want to play it on your connected TV.
- Launch the apps menu on your TV with the normal remote control
- Navigate to the TV app
- Launch the TV app
- Navigate to the pairing screen on TV app
- Launch and navigate to the pairing screen on Mobile app
- Input 9-digit pin on Mobile app.
- Tap the Play on TV button on the Mobile app
- Launch the Mobile app
- Tap the Play on TV button on the mobile app
The goal with DIAL, which stands for DIscovery And Launch, is to provide consumers and developers with the same functionality as Apple’s AirPlay system, which enables iPhones and iPads to launch content via Apple TV, but using an open, non-proprietary protocol. Originally developed by YouTube-parent Google for Google TV, DIAL is now being rolled out separately and being made available to CE companies, whether or not those companies are also introducing Google TV-enabled devices. So far, Bang & Olufsen, Panasonic, LG, Sony, Philips, Samsung, Sharp, Toshiba, Vizio, and Western Digital have indicated plans to embed DIAL in connected devices slated for release this year.
“We realized in the fall of 2011 that we could create some potentially useful 2nd screen experiences,” Scott Mirer, director of product management at Netflix, explained to GigaOM earlier this week. “At about the same time, we learned that the YouTube team was interested in much the same thing – they had already started to do some work on 2nd screen use cases. And so we approached them on collaborating… We also felt that having two major video services define and promote DIAL would help get it more widely adopted as a common solution to a common problem, vs. taking a proprietary approach.”
The launch of DIAL comes as competition is heating up among platform developers to more closely integrate first- and second-screen devices and to turn mobile devices into content-acquisition portals for the TV. In addition to AirPlay and now DIAL, Microsoft is rolling out its SmartGlass protocol for syncing mobile devices with the Xbox 360 consoles. Microsoft also recently acquired id8 Group R2 Studios, a startup founded by Slingbox developer Blake Krikorian that owns patents on technology for displaying digital media on TV screens. Last week corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment (i.e. Xbox) division.
Both Google and Apple had also been in the running to acquire R2 Studios, reflecting the importance leading connected platform providers are now placing on mobile-to-TV technology.