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Orange brings social TV app to UK

Following the successful launch of social TV app ‘TVcheck’ in its native France last September, Orange has confirmed plans to bring it to British shores in the coming weeks.

The app will be available for free on the Apple App Store from launch, and shortly afterwards on the Android Market Place. It will work with 25 free-to-air channels from broadcasters such as the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Five.

One of its key features is unique live TV image recognition technology, which allows the user to point their mobile phone at the screen to ‘check-in’ using the camera, with the content on-screen being quickly and accurately identified. It also provides a seamless connection to social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter, allowing users to chat and socialise while watching TV.

Late last week we spoke to David Nahmani, Director of Business Development and Partnerships at Orange, and Patrice Slupowski, VP Digital Innovation and Communities, who told us that a key design aim for the app was simplicity, with features designed to stimulate fun viewer interactions, such as taking part in live quizzes, earning badges or challenging members to become ‘top dog’ of a specific programme or channel.

“With this app we really want to simplify interactions and leverage the user community, invite this community to interact with the app in a fun and innovative way,” said David. “We see checking in on the app as being central to the experience, as a way to open the fun element in front of the TV, and enable the voice of the end-user to be heard by the broadcasting community and the programming house, in a very simple way.

“It is really about simplicity, having few features but well-packaged to target recommendations, entertainment and communication around programmes,” he added. “An important thing to say here is that it is really about being a platform for the TV production houses and broadcasters to leverage TV as a platform to deliver immersive experiences for users.”

“A user does not want to feel like the pilot of a jumbo jet”

Patrice believes one key advantage that the new app has over existing ones is that it is designed to complement the main TV screen, rather than become the main experience: “I think that the second screen has to be exactly that – a second screen. It must not try to be a first screen. We are seeing more and more players trying to invade the living room and become the master of the living room, regardless of the fact that if a user is relaxing in front of the TV then he does not want to feel like the pilot of a big jumbo jet with lots of screens.

“A viewer wants to be connected, he wants to be linked to his friends, but it is important to respect the first screen, which remains TV,” added Patrice. “The key differentiating point of TVcheck is that we are completely respectful of this, and we don’t want the second screen to be distracting the user and create a kind of vortex of experience that distracts the user from the first screen.”

Social TV experiments for the UK

Patrice revealed that he has been approached by the producers of TV reality shows and music events in France to work with them on delivering new experiences to viewers which are enabled by TVcheck.

“Together with a TV channel we have gone behind the scenes to deliver special footage and dedicated content which you cannot see unless you have checked in on the app. More recently we are working on a very serious political debate, which ties in with the elections currently taking place in France, and which gives viewers the chance to participate and add their voice. I am sure that in six months’ time, in 12 months’ time, we will see new viewer behaviours come out of this.”

Which brings us in a roundabout way to the launch of TVcheck in the UK: David indicated that his team has similar projects planned specifically for the UK, designed to appeal to UK audiences.  Orange strategists hope the app will help them to understand usage behaviour around social TV and the business models that arise.

“We are still in the mode of establishing opportunities, especially when you launch such nascent services in a country. While TVcheck is already open to brands, there are various ways to generate revenue out of this activity, and we are very open to leveraging them. But at present we see it as a tool for content producers and broadcasters to monetise the value that we are putting on top of TV engagement, allowing them to bridge the gap to a digital audience.”

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Patrice will be speaking at the Social TV World Summit 2012 event, taking place in London on 22-23 May 2012. For more information and to register, please visit www.socialtvworldsummit.com

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