By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
SELMA, VA. – SimulTV recently launched a beta site for a new online TV-viewing app that integrates live social engagement and TV viewing without the need for two screens.
The beauty of the service is its simplicity, said Steve Turner, SimulTV founder and president. In addition to providing a wealth of streaming video content options, SimulTV enables viewers to interact with friends in real time without having to take their eyes off of the TV program, according to the company.
This is especially important watching a sporting event or reality TV program, where typing in a message on a second device can pull the viewer’s eyes away from a key part of the drama.
SimulTV delivers a high-quality HD video picture using 60 percent less bandwidth than most competitors, and allows users to simultaneously engage in a range of social interaction with friends around the world, all from one integrated system, Turner explained.
SimulTV is browser based, meaning that any device that can log onto the Internet can access the service, from PCs to smartphones to open-browsing- enabled smart TVs and set-top boxes.
“As long as your device can connect to the Internet, you can pretty much watch it on anything you want,” Turner said.
The system doesn’t require an app to view content on an iOS or Android smart device, but Turner said the company is looking at eventually developing some native apps, “more for the marketing aspect than anything,” adding that plans are developing to place an app on an unnamed smart TV, and on a RealPlay streaming set-top box, starting in June.
Turner said SimulTV will allow “an unprecedented amount” of social interchange, from a video chat with up to four people at a time in a picture-in-picture style, to authorizing Facebook and Twitter accounts to correspond with friends on the same screen watching the same video.
For input, the system will make use of a remote control, a wireless keyboard that may have shipped with a smart TV, or a smartphone, which can be used as anything from a wireless camera to a keyboard or mouse.
The Flash-based service currently offers a handful of channels, but is expected to ramp up to more than 100 live linear channels by the summer, as well as provide access to more than 5,000 video-on-demand titles.
The service is also creating 15 channels that do not exist anywhere else, including the currently available American Music Channel (AMC) offering nothing but country music videos. He said the company will be adding channels for other music genres, as well as other forms of video content that haven’t existed elsewhere.
Turner said SimulTV is working with a range of content producers and distributors, from small independents “to the big boys,” adding that it does not yet have deals for “the latest and greatest, but we do have deals for many of the older Oscar-winning movies, classics and so on.”
The service is free while in beta test, but it is expected to begin taking a subscription fee of between $5 and $20 a month depending on the package, after it goes to a full launch in June. Packages will include a Spanish package, an Asian package and a religious package, among others. Video-ondemand fees will run 99 cents and more.
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