Co-viewing or social TV, as the concept is variously called, has been around for a while in various forms, most frequently as live blogs and chats, not to mention frequent, sprawling conversations on Twitter. ABC and Bravo have also introduced interactive apps meant as companions for viewing.
Entertainment Weekly, part of Time Inc., hopes its Viewer platform can marshal bigger co-viewing crowds by letting consumers filter whose comments they see, invite friends to the conversation and time-shift the dialog if they're time-shifting a show.
It's not certain how big social TV will become, or how quickly it will grow, but the Viewer platform in particular could play to EW's strength as a venue for pop culture fans. "I hope that people see it as a natural extension," said Bill Gannon, managing editor at EW.com and a former director of digital media at Lucasfilm. "We're trying to create a new social media platform. To be honest with you I think it's going to take a while for us to find out how successful or how popular it is ."
"Everyone understands that this is an experiment and it's an experiment worth taking," Mr. Gannon added. "This is what we need to do to keep Time Inc. and EW current and fresh."
Entertainment Weekly's tech provider on the platform, i.TV, is bullish on social TV. "Our sense is that it will be a multi-billion-dollar platform, social television at large," said Brad Pelo, CEO at i.TV.
"The human behavior pattern has changed such that we're now very comfortable using our digital devices while watching television," he said. "The opportunity is very latent and large, because we are used to being more engaged. Television is no longer a passive experience."
Entertainment Weekly is separately encouraging readers to "check in" to TV shows using the GetGlue platform.