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Ten leading television broadcast groups with stations in markets covering 76 million U.S. households today announced a long-term commercial partnership with Silicon Valley-based start-up ConnecTV, a free, real-time social network built for TV viewers. ConnecTV expands the TV experience by allowing viewers to interact with other fans watching the same program, while providing a broad range of related content and promotional opportunities that are directly synchronized to programs being viewed.
Participating broadcast TV groups 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. Combined, these TV groups own 201 stations made up of ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, CW and WB affiliates in 45 of the nation's top 50 markets. Nine of the 10 broadcast groups had previously formed a venture named Pearl, which, as part of this partnership, will expand and coordinate the affiliate base of participating local broadcasters for ConnecTV.
All broadcast partners plan to integrate and synchronize their programming within ConnecTV and promote the new service on-air and on-line. As part of the commercial agreement, the broadcasters will have local advertising inventory appear within ConnecTV to drive program promotions and deliver innovative campaigns through their local ad sales teams. In addition, a number of the broadcasters have made an undisclosed investment in ConnecTV.
"From its very beginning, television has always been a big part of the daily American discourse. In this digital era, much of this dialogue now takes place on social media platforms. As local broadcasters, we love that people are talking about our shows," said Alan Frank, President and CEO of Post-Newsweek Stations on behalf of Pearl. "We looked long and hard for a partner that could create a compelling environment that would encourage, enhance and monetize that dialogue, even during live programs including news coverage or sporting events - and we found it at ConnecTV."
"Our mission is for ConnecTV to be the social network that empowers entertainment, news and sports fans to share the greatest moments in television," said ConnecTV Co-Founder Ian Aaron. "The team at ConnecTV is thrilled to work with the leaders in local news and television across America as we bring to market an innovative and engaging second-screen experience for all TV viewers that works seamlessly across all programming genres and on all platforms. With over five billion TV viewers and the explosion of tablets and smart phones globally, we are truly at the beginning of a new way to watch TV."
Today's news of the partnership with the leading broadcasters represents the first public announcement about ConnecTV. For the past two years, the venture has been developing its core technology, and fine-tuning its social TV platform and user experience. Available now in an "invitation only" sneak preview, ConnecTV will be launching to the public in early 2012. ConnecTV was founded by interactive television veterans Ian Aaron, former President of Gemstar-TV Guide and CEO of TVN Entertainment; 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.
According to the LA Times this morning... and in what has to be the biggest second screen deal yet - ConnecTV's application, which has been in the works for two years, is designed to enable viewers to interact with other fans of the TV shows as everyone watches in real time. The technology automatically detects and "checks in" ConnecTV subscribers when they tune into a program and then sends related content to their "second screen," such as a laptop or Apple Inc.'s iPad.
For example, sports fans could receive statistics of football players on their laptop or second screen as they watch the game on their big screen. Viewers of ABC's "Modern Family" could see a feed on their second screen that contains the latest news about Ty Burrell or another actor in the show.
The rollout of ConnecTV's free application -- which is currently in a restricted beta test mode -- is expected to begin in January. Later in the year, the company is expected to introduce an application for smart phones.
Variety also picked up on the story:
ConnecTV can surround hundreds of channels -- whether programming is local or national across broadcasting or cable networks -- with synchronized content related to what's onscreen. In addition, ConnecTV has a social-media component that brings together viewers with either other viewers in their community or a grouping of their own choosing.
There have been plenty of studies confirming the ubiquity in the living room of devices ranging from iPads to laptops. New research from Futuresource Consulting out last week found that at least half of viewers surveyed in U.S., U.K., France and Germany are using secondary devices while watching TV.
The opportunity has attracted no shortage of corporate attention. But the business of providing content on second screens as an adjunct to the primary TV experience is so wide open that ConnecTV stands out for no other reason than its broad footprint.
Platforms like Twitter and Facebook may be best situated to capitalize on this phenomenon, though they haven't done much more than simply present themselves as the place for conversations simultaneous to the TV. For TV companions that combine social media with a content experience, there have been channel-oriented websites and apps from the likes of Bravo and MTV as well as show-specific approaches from Fox ("Terra Nova") and ABC ("Grey's Anatomy").