ConnecTV App lets you watch TV a new way
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You love television. You love your laptop, tablet or smartphone.
ConnecTV is betting you'll love using them with its app.
Promising to raise "second screen" involvement to new levels of engagement, ConnecTV and Pearl recently rolled out a digital version with "Lord of the Rings" overtones: one app to unite them all.
Multitasking on a digital device while watching television is on the rise, according to national polls. A recent Nielsen report indicated that among U.S. tablet owners, 26 percent used them fairly often while watching television.
Eighty-six percent of the smartphone owners polled reported they had used their devices at least once to "second screen."
"It's getting more and more prevalent for folks, just by the distinction of having [screened] devices in hand, or on their laps at all times, even at dinner," said Michael Hayes, WTAE president and CEO.
WTAE is owned by Hearst Television Inc. It, as well as WPXI owner Cox Media Group, are part of the Pearl consortium. They represent 85 stations participating in the ConnecTV endeavour, with another 130 stations expected to join later.
The CBS Television Network owns KDKA and is not a Pearl member, although a press release for ConnecTV stated some CBS stations will be involved. Station general manager Chris Pike said he had no comment.
The free app is available only for Apple's iPad. Android and iPhone versions are expected to launch within the next 40 days.
Ideally, the ConnecTV experience will showcase a wealth of content about the program you're watching while you meander through that smartphone or tablet.
"What makes it go is content, and the ability to drive people's usage on both platforms simultaneously," Mr. Hayes said.
Audible recognition technology allows ConnecTV to detect what program is playing, from the NBA Finals to an episode of Fox's "Hell's Kitchen." This works with recorded shows as well as live broadcasts.
Users have the option of signing in via Facebook or Twitter accounts, then joining in to comment with friends or strangers who are also watching that show.
There also is a "Trending" section that follows the biggest buzz in the current time period.
At least one program has been an early adopter: at 10:13 p.m. Tuesday night, one Twitter feed featured chat from a producer of CBS's "48 Hours Mystery."
That same night, when the Pirates played in Baltimore, calling up the game also triggered the live-time box score. The batting lineup, supplemented with facts and current statistics about who's at bat, occupied the largest part of the screen.
To the right was a column for social media and in the bottom left corner, a rotating series of travel advertisements.
"I happen to be a big Twitter guy," said WPXI news director Mike Goldrick. "So I'm in the room, watching the game with my son. But with your phone, it's like you're watching with 40 other people."
This interactive experience is something WPXI and WTAE hope to engage during newscasts.
"We can facilitate discussions, whether the Steelers have something going on, or it's a council issue, or if they want to increase parking fees to reduce debt," Mr. Hayes said.
Right now, local and national content is skimpy. WPXI, for example, has a link to its RSS feed with local sports, traffic and weather.
"Say Rick Earle is doing something on the most dangerous intersection in the Pittsburgh area. He would do his story, maybe a 2-, 21/2-minute piece. But if you were on ConnecTV, special programming of maybe a map or lists of the other most dangerous intersections would show up on the big part of the screen."
Someday, Mr. Goldrick said, it might be possible to connect right into the newsroom computer system for up-to-the-minute information.
"For now, the engineering is a big hurdle," he said.
Mr. Hayes said that WTAE has always pushed for social media interaction -- "at one time, we were in the top five in the county in terms of Facebook fans" -- and that he can only guess "what if" had this technology been around a year ago.
"If Hines [Ward] is on 'Dancing With the Stars' two years from now, rather than last year ... this could have been facilitating an easier discussion of what was happening, live."
"The evolution of media is still happening," Mr. Hayes said. "Our mission is to be on the forefront of that and have the products people are wanting to use."
First Published June 17, 2012 12:00 am