Triggering and Synchronous Connected TVs - One Screen and Two

written by: Richard Kastelein

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The great battle for most third party developers in the TV App space has always been a lack of XML or meta data that can signal or 'trigger' actions on the secondary devices. And different developers have taken it on in different ways. Here are a couple of companies that I work with in the UK market for instance:

Seattle's Splat Interactive (L4 Systems)  have been manually tagging an enormous inventory of shows such as Glee at (an internal project for them) and are on several TV App platforms already. Their pedigree includes work on Microsoft's original WebTV over a decade ago and are also building TV apps on multiple platforms for the likes of Clearchannel (iHeart), wCities on Samsung, and are in talks with some major industry players  - and considered industry leaders in the single screen TV App architecture space.

Amsterdam's Ex Machina has taken a different approach with PlayToTV - a two screen solution - and has created what is essentially a White Label platform for broadcasters to create the triggers themselves in a social TV companion (on tablets and smartphones)  they built off a powerful gaming project they designed a number of years ago which had hundreds of thousands of concurrent users and ended up with a billion impressions - proving scalability is not an issue. They are experts in game mechanics and have been picked up by broadcasters in The Netherlands as well as are in talks in both the UK and US on some major shows. 

Broadcasters and content creators control the scripts and are therefore better positioned to create the tags (what designer dress is Angela Jolie wearing, what car brand is in the chase, what song is being played, etc) 

It appears that Yahoo! Connected TV has also started moving in this direction with a series of new partnerships with TV networks.

According to eHomeUpGrade, Yahoo! is currently collaborating with ABC, CBS, HSN, and Showtime to add broadcast flags — for lack of a better term — to their content that will trigger a show’s widget/app to launch interactive functionality (will work with live and DVR’d content).  This is an extremely interesting move by Yahoo and likely to resonate thoughout the industry.

Yahoo! is also working with device makers to create an HDMI pass-through TV adapter to overlay live TV — kind of like the Google TV-powered Logitech Revue — which will enable apps to display on a standard HDTV as well as gather instructions from mobile devices. Sample uses: “With broadcast interactivity, TV programmers will be able to create TV apps that let viewers vote for a reality-TV participant, get more information about characters, or make e-commerce purchases while watching a show. For brand advertisers, broadcast interactivity will let them connect in real time with TV viewers during commercials or other branded entertainment experiences.”

We covered the deals with broadcasters earlier in the week here.



A few years ago I worked on an XBRL (eXtensible Business Reporting Language) project in the financial industry - which is a freely available, market-driven, open, and global standard for exchanging business information and is defined by metadata set out in XBRL taxonomies. It would be brilliant to see a similar industry-wide standard for meta data in the TV industry.That would mean that triggering would be standardized, open and available to third party developers to help disseminate the programming, the brands, the gaming mechanics and the social aspects of future TV much more successfully. 

But I am not holding my breath as it seems the industry is nowhere near consolidation with a dozen TV App platforms and people screaming from all directions towards the middle in the emerging convergence. 

If you are interested in more information about Ex Machina or Splat Media you can email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

About the Author

Richard Kastelein
Founder of The Hackfest, publisher of TV App Market and global expert on Media & TV innovation, Kastelein is an award winning publisher and futurist. He has guest lectured at MIT Media Lab, University of Cologne, sat on media convergence panel at 2nd EU Digital Assembly in Brussels, and worked with broadcasters such as the BBC, NPO, RTL (DE and NL), Eurosport, NBCU, C4, ITV, Seven Network and others on media convergence strategy - Social TV, OTT, DLNA and 2nd Screen etc.

He is a Fellow of the UK Royal Society of Arts (RSA) and UK Royal Television Society (RTS) member.

Kastelein has spoken (& speaking) on the future of media & TV in Amsterdam, Belfast, Berlin, Brussels, Brighton, Copenhagen, Cannes, Cologne, Curacao, Frankfurt, Hollywood, Hilversum, Geneva, Groningen (TEDx), Kuala Lumpur, London, Las Vegas, Leipzig, Madrid, Melbourne, NYC, Rio, Sheffield, San Francisco, San Jose, Sydney, Tallinn, Vienna, Zurich...

He's been on advisory boards of TEDx Istanbul, SMWF UK, Apps World, and judged & AIB awards, Social TV Awards Hollywood, TV Connect & IPTV Awards.

A versatilist & autodidact, his leadership ability, divergent and synthetic thinking skills evolved from sailing the world 24000 miles+ offshore in his 20′s on sailboats under 12m.

He spent 10 years in the Caribbean media & boating industry as a professional sailor before returning to Europe, to Holland.

A Creative Technologist and Canadian (Dutch/Irish/English/Metis) his career began in the Canadian Native Press and is now a columnist for The Association for International Broadcasting and writes for Wired, The Guardian & Virgin. His writings have been translated into Polish, German and French. 

One of Kastelein's TV formats was optioned by Sony Pictures Television in 2012. 

Currently involved in a number of startups including publishing TV App Market online, The Hackfest and Tripsearch TV. As CSO for Worldticketshop he helped build a $100m company.

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