Brad Pelo is suddenly in charge of a major Nintendo initiative for the Japanese company's next big console, the Wii U, despite not being an employee at Nintendo. Instead, Pelo is CEO of i.TV -- a "social television and second screen technology company" that's worked with everyone from Entertainment Weekly to Engadget parent company AOL -- and he's the man responsible for Nintendo TVii.
At least he's the man responsible for the company providing the software behind Nintendo TVii (the guy behind the guy, if you will). And his company brings more to the bargaining table than just software -- existing relationships with cable providers and TiVO in the US bolster what i.TV offers Nintendo in a major way. "For Nintendo TVii, there is a mutual benefit in existing relationships we have. Like TiVO for example -- we were the first to bring TiVO to the mobile platform. There's also the benefit of tests that we have done over the years with the cable companies, based on components of our platform," Pelo told Engadget.
But how did this all come about? He said it wasn't long after Nintendo's original Wii U E3 reveal. "The genesis of the experience you're seeing here was really when the Wii U was announced, and it was clear that this is the ideal second screen," Pelo explained. "Ideal," in Pelo's eyes, means a closed system with a "dedicated second screen." In so many words, while he acknowledges that tablets offered by other manufacturers are technically superior, they don't offer the same whole-system approach that Nintendo's Wii U is offering. "You might not think of it as the ideal hardware compared to an iPad if I really had a dedicated second screen. But it is in the living room, and it's persistent. It doesn't even really work outside of the living room -- it's attached to the main viewing service in the home," he explained, referencing the Wii U's tablet-style controller.
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Unlike i.TV's other collaborations, Pelo said his company's relationship with Nintendo is far deeper, allowing for a richer experience with Nintendo TVii than what the competition's offering. He differentiates between the relationships as "powered-by" applications -- such as his company's collaboration with Entertainment Weekly on "EW Viewer" -- versus the built-from-the-ground-up approach taken with Nintendo. "This experience was sort of put all the tools and capabilities of i.TV on the table, including other apps and social experiences, and then start to envision what could be done on the Wii U platform. And it became a deeply engaging, collaborative experience where we just dreamt together with Nintendo and their teams what could be done in creating the deep-level custom integrations with the hardware," Pelo explained.
Despite the depth of the relationship with Nintendo, i.TV will continue to work with existing partners -- even to the depth that Pelo said was unique with Nintendo. It doesn't sound like there's any chance i.TV will work with competing console manufacturers anytime soon, though. "We continue to work with other partners. Absolutely, we can work at this depth with other partners. We have other unannounced relationships that are deep, deep relationships as well. But I think this is reflective of what a more entrepreneurially minded company can do with a well-established manufacturer to bring about a mutual vision rather than just sort of waiting the market out, hoping one day all these devices will work the way I want them to," he said. When asked about Sony and Microsoft's second screen attempts -- with the PlayStation Vita and SmartGlass, respectively -- he doesn't see that as real competition, even.
"This is a unifying experience that works on every show. You don't have to go develop a custom app that works with a specific show," Pelo said. "This is a comprehensive solution, and what some of the other game consoles have at least talked publicly about, I don't see as comprehensive solutions. I see them as models that, to some degree, have been tried already in the market, particularly in the last year. We've tried this siloed app experience with television and that isn't lasting, so I just believe that this strategy would be the winning strategy." We'll see how Pelo and i.TV's bet works out later this year when Nintendo TVii launches with the Wii U in November.