By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
New York — Showtime Networks and LG Electronics Thursday revealed a new partnership that is bringing Showtime’s second-screen Sho Sync app to the single screen of select LG smart TVs.
The app, which is scheduled to bring a range of interactive features to a number of Showtime’s most popular original TV series, will ride atop LG Electronics’ LivePlus interactive platform for Internet-connected TVs, enabling Showtime to present viewers with a range of live onscreen polls about storylines and characters within the program being viewed.
Viewers who opt in to the onscreen Sho Sync feature can answer questions using a press of a button on the remote control, or using the advanced input options from LG’s Magic Motion Remote. The latter is offered with select advanced LG smart-TV models.
Sho Sync content is authored in standard HTML5 format.
The app goes live starting today across 2012 LG smart TVs when viewing the programs “Dexter” and “Ray Donovan.” LG’s 2013 models will receive a firmware update shortly thereafter making them compatible with the new service.
In the next few months, the feature will roll out to additional Showtime original programs, including: “Shameless,” “Californication,” “Homeland,” “Nurse Jackie,” “Episodes” and “Masters of Sex.”
Preisman said Showtime opted to launch the service with “Dexter” and “Ray Donovan,” because those programs attract some of Showtime’s most passionate audiences.
When the LG LivePlus feature recognizes a program as Sho Sync-enabled, an invitation to play along will appear on the screen, and the viewer can opt in with a click of their LG TV remote. The LivePlus technology powers the sync experience regardless of whether the program is watched live, On Demand or from a DVR or DVD.
The prompt will disappear from screens after a few seconds if viewers are not interested in participating. They can check to see if Sho Sync is running on a program thereafter with a push of a button on the remote.
Viewers who opt in can engage in the online polls, trivia questions and other interactive activities. They will be asked to vote for a number of answers to questions, including popular characters and thoughts about potential storyline outcomes and other trivia.
Tabulated votes will be presented in real time in an unobtrusive graphic overlay on the screen.
David Preisman, Showtime Networks interactive television VP, said viewer research has shown that Sho Sync, which previously has been available as a second-screen app on iOS devices, should be much more compelling as a single-screen interactive TV app, largely because of the ease of use with simple button presses on a remote, and the even richer experience offered using LG’s Magic Remote on select TV models.
Likelihood of engagement trends across age lines, he said, although it appears to be most popular with slightly older demographics.
Preisman said Showtime is not using its interactive services for ancillary advertising or revenue-generation purposes. Rather, it us using Sho Sync to broaden the user entertainment experience and enhance the value of its services to subscribers.
LG said the two companies are “the first to advance the capabilities of smart TVs to provide viewers with a synchronized, interactive content experience along with television programming.”
LG is working toward having its interactive architecture adopted as part of an industry standard, company executives said, which would open up onscreen interactive smart-TV functionality available for license by other devices and companies.
The LivePlus synchronous content platform allows broadcasters, cable networks and other program providers to enhance viewers’ linear TV experience with interactive content delivered automatically to Internet-connected smart TVs without the need to install any applications or download content, LG explained.
James Fishler, LG Electronics USA marketing senior VP, said, “The LivePlus synchronous TV platform shows that with LG, it’s all possible. It extends the capabilities of LG smart TVs to enhance the TV viewing experience with compelling content authored by the programmers. While interactive TV has been previously done in many forms, this is the first time that standards such as HTLM5 have been used, enabling high-quality graphics using standard authoring tools.”
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