American Express is partnering with NBCUniversal and Fox on a long-sought method of activating sales directly inspired by television programming. But observers aren't clear on whether this is a profound new direction or a novelty. "Is television to remain a one-way funnel of content that gets piped in to the living room from Big Hollywood, or is TV's content something that can prompt chatter and response -- and purchases -- as new technology eliminates many of the differences between the TV screen and the tablet window or computer monitor?" Brian Steinberg asks.

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