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Pearl Group Tests OTA Broadcasts of Interactive Content and Ads

LAS VEGAS—At the NAB Show in Vegas, National Association of Broadcasters Show, a group of eight TV station groups announced it is conducting interactive TV trials this spring to demonstrate the capability to view enhanced content and advertising delivered to LG Smart TVs in the Atlanta, Cleveland and Orlando markets during live news broadcasts.

The group, known as Pearl (an early adopter of mobile DTV transmissions in the U.S.), is looking to pursue new opportunities in digital media for local stations and is now targeting Internet-connected televisions, also known as "smart TVs." According to the Consumer Electronics Association, smart TVs represent one of the fastest growing categories in the industry.

Interactive demos at the show included photos and maps overlayed onto live video that could be offered to viewers wanting more information about particular news events and weather reports In its "Global Digital Living Forecast Workbook" from March 2014, Parks Associates estimates that the number of "Smart TV" households in the U.S. will reach 42 million this year, representing 36% of all TV households. Approximately one-third of those sets will be automatic content recognition (ACR) capable. By 2018, a majority, 56%, of Smart TV sets will be ACR-enabled.

"Pearl members are very excited by the ability of Smart TVs to synchronize live and recorded programming with interactive content provided by the stations," said Peter Diaz, Executive VP of Gannett Co. Inc. (a Pearl member TV holding company). "We're experimenting with how these new capabilities can be used by programmers to enhance the viewing experience and provide better audience engagement. As producers of some of the most-watched TV content in the country the involvement of local broadcasters is critical to the success of new platforms for both interactivity and new advertising options."

Interactive demos at the show included photos and maps overlayed onto live video that could be offered to viewers wanting more information about particular news events and weather reports, as well as personalized traffic information and content from the station's own websites. The tests also highlighted the capability for viewers to interact with advertising by requesting more information such as store locations or receiving coupons.

The tests were coordinated by Pearl, a venture of eight leading TV station groups that was formed four years ago. Members include Cox Media Group, the E.W. Scripps Company, Gannett Co. Inc., Hearst Television Inc., Media General Inc., Meredith Local Media Group, Post-Newsweek Stations Inc. and Raycom Media. Schurz Communications is also investing in the interactive TV trial.

Throughout the U.S., Pearl TV broadcasters reach 111 million households representing 63% of the U.S. population with 170 network-affiliated and top-ranked TV stations that collectively book nearly $4 billion in annual advertising revenue.

The unique live TV trial delivered enhanced content to viewers utilizing services from Watchwith's sync-to-broadcast content management platform and Cognitive Networks' automatic content recognition (ACR) capability to LG Smart TV sets already in consumer homes in the test markets.

"For years, LG has been making Smart TVs easier to use, providing more features for viewers to find and view engaging content, and enabling the delivery of some of the most desirable content," said Sam Chang, vice president and head of the Silicon Valley Lab at LG Electronics. "LG's LivePlus interactive TV service, launched last fall, adds to these OTT (over-the-top) features and enables Smart TVs to deliver enhanced interactive content from broadcasters, programmers and advertisers, synchronized to the linear program. Our collaboration with Pearl breaks new ground on both live news programming and local station content."

For the interactive TV trial, Watchwith provided a sync-to-broadcast content management platform for television stations to efficiently create, schedule and deliver perfectly timed interactive content, advertising and commerce offers in sync with their shows and commercials to consumers.

Watchwith's platform makes it fast and easy for broadcasters and advertisers to activate their programs and commercials and connect directly with viewers, said Zane Vella, Watchwith founder and CEO. "The combination of an ACR-enabled TV like LG LivePlus and interactive content from local broadcaster station producers using Watchwith delivers engaging interactive user experiences for audiences and generates new revenue for programmers."

Cognitive Networks' automatic content recognition system is the underlying technology running on the LG TVs that enables the local station to send the right HTML5 content at the right time to the right show – based on the consumer's decision to add interactivity to the show.

Stations participating in Atlanta are WSB (Cox), WGCL (Meredith) and WXIA (Gannett). Cleveland stations that are participating in the trial include WOIO (Raycom), WEWS (Scripps) and WKYC (Gannett). In Orlando, participating stations are WKMG (Post-Newsweek), WFTV (Cox) and WESH (Hearst).