ConnecTV, a mobile application designed to make TV viewing more social, is being relaunched with a focus on video sharing.
The reboot of the TV industry-backed venture illustrates the challenges that confront independent app developers in the age of Twitter and Facebook.
The Tuesday debut of the new version, which enables people to clip and share six-second highlights of a TV show or televised sporting event, comes in response to consumer disinterest in the initial version, which provided a bounty of information to supplement the viewing experience.
"Two-thirds of people just wanted to engage with social media while they were watching TV," ConnecTV Chief Executive Ian Aaron said. "They didn't want to want to see additional content. They felt the additional content was a distraction."
Launched three years ago by two founders of TiVo Inc., ConnecTV attracted investments from 10 major television groups, including those owned by Gannett Co., Hearst Corp. and the E.W. Scripps Co.
The 2012 introduction of the app — which recognized the show airing on TV and delivered an ambitious number of features, including supplemental news and information about shows, "viewing parties" and opinion polls — was touted as the largest ever rollout of a social media platform for television.
It was one of a flood of "second screen" applications that sought to capitalize on changing behavior in the living room, as a growing number of viewers watch shows with a smartphone or tablet at their fingertips. After attracting millions of dollars in funding, applications such as IntoNow, Shazam, GetGlue, NextGuide, Viggle and Zeebox have been vying for the attention of users.
But a wave of consolidation has begun. CBS has taken full ownership of TV Guide digital, while Dijit Media Inc., the parent of NextGuide, has acquired the Google-backed social TV venture Miso. A planned merger of Viggle and GetGlue fizzled this year, and GetGlue installed a seasoned digital media veteran, Evan Krauss, as company president.
Several television executives said these start-ups are being overshadowed by Facebook and Twitter, social media titans that have become the de facto water coolers for conversations about TV.
Indeed, measurement firm Nielsen recently struck a deal with Twitter to better understand how consumers use social media while watching TV and produces weekly ratings based on those conversations.
Hardie Tankersley, Fox's vice president of platforms and innovation, said that although second-screen applications have yet to become mainstream, early experiments, including one involving Shazam that enables users to cast votes during broadcasts of the singing competition show "The X Factor," indicate these digital offerings hold appeal.
"We've put some concepts in front of people, and they love them," Tankersley said. "If you give people something that's really fun to interact with, they'll do it."
Guy Finley, executive director of the trade organization 2nd Screen Society, said the new ConnecTV app addresses a void in the market for TV viewers who want to share a high-quality clip of something they've just watched.
"This will be something that will be a game changer," Finley said.
ConnecTV's Aaron recently demonstrated the new app, which is similar to Twitter's Vine or Instagram's video sharing feature.
"We did some testing with the broadcasters around clipping news, and we found that was one app people really wanted," Aaron said. "We saw people on Vine and Instagram were literally holding up their smartphones to the TV. But there was no attribution for the network. You had no idea of the background. So we built a platform to do this."
When watching TV, Aaron said, viewers launch the ConnecTV app on their smartphones or tablets to capture a high-quality TV highlight, be it a favorite bit from CBS' top-rated comedy, "The Big Bang Theory," or a controversial call during the third game of the World Series. The app automatically recognizes the TV show and delivers the last two minutes' worth of video frames within the app.
The user can navigate the video timeline to select the start of the clip, attach a headline and share the video on Facebook, Twitter and ConnecTV's own site. An overlay at the end identifies the program and network, and in the case of a sports highlight, offers the score and other crucial details about the play.
Aaron said networks can customize this postcard to provide tune-in information or attach a video promoting another show. ConnecTV also is working with pay television providers to enable people who have watched the clip to tune in to a live show or program their digital video recorders to save future episodes, he said.
ConnecTV's founders hope the new video-sharing focus will distinguish ConnecTV from a crowded field of social TV apps. Underscoring the competitiveness in this space, the National Football League last month announced a deal with Twitter to provide game highlights and other content on the platform.
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