Being in sync – extending the interactive TV experience

Next week, the US’s ABC network will announce their latest version of their Sync iPad app – this time for the popular Grey’s Anatomy series. The Sync application is a joint exploration of ABC and Nielsen’s Media Sync platform, which detects and synchronises content using audio watermarks. They’d previously attempted a version of this with the TV show “My Generation”, but unfortunately the show was cancelled after just two episodes of low ratings.

Despite this, I think the underlying concept of the Sync app is particularly interesting – and in particular, find it interesting to consider what the motivations are for a user to get out their iPad whilst watching TV content and want to interact.

Where and when is it most relevant?
The original concept for the My Generation application was to have audience interaction through polls, allow people to browse extended information about the show and its contestants, and special extras would “sync” during commercial breaks.

With linear programming fighting against the lures/benefits of on-demand content, it seems the concept of “syncing” might be one that programmers use to deliver an added bonus for linear consumption.  My initial instinct is to relate syncing to live and linear programming – imagine an app that allows live voting or audience opinion polls (I’m thinking it would be great for opinion graphs during political debates). Or one that has a dedicated twitter stream running alongside.

But potentially syncing might also be useful for on-demand consumption – imagine being able to view the stream of twitter comments as it relates to a specific point in a program. Or even just aligning related content to specific points in time (for some reason, I’m imagining “PopUp Video”, with related facts displayed at certain points in time for a music video).

Generally I think this opens up a larger discussion on the best uses for secondary “companion” devices – an extremely interesting space, and I’m definitely keen to see where it leads us next.