TV watching is one of those weird borderline activities, at once social and antisocial: yes, you’re in a room with other people, but your shared experience derives from the fact that you’re all staring vacantly at the same thing. Anyway, regardless of how social it really is, “social TV” is frequently touted as one of the next big frontiers for social media -- and also a crucial area for TV broadcasters and content creators to establish a foothold.
With that in mind, a new Emeryville, CA start-up called ConnecTV is creating an online network targeting local and network TV watchers, which should allow them to interact with other viewers while watching their favorite programs. For viewers who choose to participate, the ConnecTV network will automatically check them in whenever they start watching a particular program, and then deliver an array of program-related content to another device (“second screen”) like a laptop or iPad, which can be used as an adjunct to the viewing experience. As noted, this includes an online platform to interact with other fans.
In the company’s own words: “Imagine a free social TV app that lets you play along with friends live on your laptop or tablet while you watch your favorite television show or sporting event. Here's how it works: Your TV is up there. Your ConnecTV app is down here on your second screen. ConnecTV identifies your show and instantly syncs on your tablet, PC or Mac so you can...hold viewing parties and chat with friends. Play games for prizes. And get more info and news about your favorite entertainment and sports stars.”
The ConnecTV online network, currently in beta, was co-founded by Ian Aaron, a former president of Gemstar-TV Guide; Alan Moskowitz, former senior engineer at MobiTV and member of the founding engineering team at TiVo; and Stacy Jolna, former General Manager of TV Guide OnDemand (TV Guide SPOT) and Chief Programming Officer and founding executive team member of TiVo. Its broadcast partners include Barrington Broadcasting Group, Belo Corp., Cox Media Group, E.W. Scripps Co., Gannett Broadcasting, Hearst Television Inc., Media General Inc., Meredith Corp., Post-Newsweek Stations Inc. and Raycom Media -- together representing 201 stations reaching 76 million households in 45 of the top 50 media markets. It is supposed to begin general service in January 2012.