ABC's IPad App Watches 'My Generation' Along With You

Interactive TV Arrives? Audio Cues Trigger Poll Questions and More as Show's Episodes Unfold

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NEW YORK ( -- ABC's new iPad app for the upcoming show "My Generation" will deliver poll questions, trivia and other elements in sync with each episode as it unfolds. It's a new stab at interactive television, using a second screen -- the iPad's -- instead of taking up real estate on the TV screen you're trying to watch.

ABC's 'My Generation Sync' iPad app
ABC's 'My Generation Sync' iPad app
The My Generation Sync app may seem to be watching along with you, whether you're watching live or days later on your DVR, but it will actually use the iPad's microphone and Nielsen's Media Sync technology to keep app content in step with the show.

Audio watermarks in the program will trigger synchronized questions, information and social-networking features in the app. You can see a demo video here.

"We've created a sync-to-broadcast app that appeals to both fans and advertisers, and holds an array of possibilities for deeper engagement with our content and our advertisers' brands," Albert Cheng, exec VP-digital media at Disney/ABC Television Group, said in a statement describing the app.

Sponsors of "My Generation," which premiers next week, are able to host companion promotions in the app, although nothing's been sold yet; ABC's sales team will be presenting the app to advertisers and agencies now that it's live.

Sid Gorham, exec VP for strategy and business development at Nielsen, said consumers can expect more consumer-facing applications of the synch listening technology to arrive in the first half of next year. And while there have been a lot of attempts over the years to structure companion experiences to TV viewership, he thinks this one's a bit different.

"You can think of this as another way to build interactive TV," Mr. Gorham said. "This is a different way to approach that and leave the big screen alone to provide interactivity on the second screen."

Mr. Gorham pointed out that the mobile devices used during co-viewing are the same taken to the point of purchase. "What if you could save coupons or offers during viewing to your phone?" he said. "A lot of those interactive functions work well with a mobile phone."

ABC continues to be a first-mover network on iPad. It was among the first to roll out a video app when the tablet launched this spring and has now -- only days after CBS caught up with its first, straightforward video app -- released this co-viewing app for "My Generation."

ABC's co-viewing app also goes further than others by automatically following along as episodes unfold, but it is not the first app meant to be used while you watch TV. Third-party social TV companies such as GetGlue and Miso have already launched iPad check-in and social-media services as companions to TV viewing.

It's far from clear where the most viewers will turn -- if anywhere -- for social TV, to the networks themselves or to third parties that can span networks. PBS has opted to partner with GetGlue rather than build its own social TV iPad app. It recently expanded its relationship with GetGlue to promote fall miniseries such as "The Tenth Inning" by Ken Burns.

"It doesn't make sense for PBS to build its own loyalty program because there are only so many things people can be a part of," said Alex Iskold, CEO-cofounder of GetGlue. His service approaches the check-in, a behavior made popular by Foursquare, as a way to track and reward viewer loyalty.

"As people are checking into our shows, it's being broadcast out into their social networks," said Kevin Dando, director for digital marketing and communications for PBS. "I am absolutely certain it's bringing new audiences to the shows we're promoting this fall."

PBS has its own iPhone apps and plans for more, but decided not to go it alone on social TV, Mr. Dando said. "It's why we're on Facebook and why we're on Twitter," he said. "They have the network and they have the technology. It makes it easy for us to put our content there. With all of these companies, we want to be where the audiences are."

Big networks like ABC, with their mass audiences, might get bigger install bases for their own apps. But it doesn't seem like the big guys are counting start-ups like GetGlue out. ABC is in talks with GetGlue, Mr. Iskold said, as is NBC.

GetGlue, meanwhile, isn't expecting media companies to go solely through its own app. "We want to see our partners' apps facilitate check-ins outside of GetGlue's app," Mr. Iskold said, citing iterations such as widgets on web-based video players as possibilities.

While the ABC app is just for iPad, Nielsen plans to extend the sync technology to the iPhone and other major mobile platforms such as Android.

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