MTV Developing 'Co-Viewing' Apps for the iPad

Coming Soon: Something to Do While Watching 'Beavis and Butthead'

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Magazines and newspapers aren't the only media eying big benefits upon the iPad's arrival: TV is poised to use the device in new ways, including creating interactive, social apps designed to be used while watching live programming.

MTV Networks, for example, is developing a "co-browsing app meant to be used while watching live TV," said one executive familiar with MTV's iPad plans. "This means the iPad could be the appendage that makes interactive TV a reality."

Kristin Frank, general manager of MTV and VH1 Digital, said MTV is focusing on two approaches to its apps, whether for mobile or the iPad: co-viewing apps that capture the social-media chatter around TV and awards shows and apps for video on the go. IPad apps for "Beavis and Butt-Head," "MTV News" and "VH1 To Go" are all due in April, she said.

"Fifty-nine percent of people are multitasking when watching TV -- that's something we've always known," said Ms. Frank, referring to recent Nielsen data quantifying a longstanding observation. "This is the next evolution."

Mobile phone apps to run on the iPhone and Android devices remain MTV's priority for 2010, Ms. Frank noted, but the iPad apps under construction are a reminder that TV is not about to sit the tablet out.

'Sweet spot'
Part of the idea is that mobile devices are easier and more appealing to play with while watching TV than laptop or desktop computers -- but the tablet will hit the sweet spot in between.

The iPad is going to open new opportunities, said Somrat Niyogi, CEO at the app developer Bazaar Labs. "I do think that with the iPad you are going to see a lot more conversation because the screen is bigger," he said. "People will be more receptive to typing. It's early, but you're going to see in the next 12 to 18 months a series of start-ups experimenting in new ways to layer digital on the TV experience."

Bazaar Labs has already released an iPhone app called Miso that suggests another avenue opening up. Miso users "check in" to TV shows or movies -- much like they do on Foursquare and Gowalla for physical places like bars and restaurants -- to share what they're watching on Twitter and Facebook and earn badges.

Networks and movie studios are interested in the app's ability to get viewers to broadcast what they're watching to their social networks, according to Mr. Niyogi, who recently partnered with MGM Studios so users can unlock branded badges for its movie "Hot Tub Time Machine."

Social media boost
You can see why networks and others might be intrigued by apps that revolve around what's on TV right now. Major live, broadcast events like this year's Oscars and Winter Olympics have already demonstrated how much social media chatter can surround televised events -- and boost ratings. And tweets about TV shows tend to spike as they air, often making hit shows into trending topics on Twitter during airtime, according to data from Trendrr, a tracking service for social and digital media .

Even Google TV, the search giant's planned partnership with Intel and Sony, intends to better integrate social networking and web-based applications with TV -- imagine social-networking apps for television built by developers with Google's Android operating system. The companies are reportedly working with Logitech to develop remotes with keyboards to make it easier to do things like update Twitter -- a behavior we're already seeing with users on mobile phone touchscreens or QWERTY keyboards.

Bravo recently introduced Talk Bubble, which lets viewers interact with the Real Housewives of New York, for example, while the show is on air and share comments via Twitter or Facebook. About 40% of Talk Bubble's use so far is coming from mobile devices, according to Lisa Hsia, senior VP-Bravo digital media.

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