On Tuesday, ABC released Grey’s Anatomy Sync for iPad, a free app that promises a more interactive TV viewing experience.
The app is designed as a form of companion content to the show itself. The first episode of Grey’s Anatomy to take advantage of this app will air this Thursday, February 3. ABC has said that all remaining first-run episodes of the show will also work with the app.
Grey’s Anatomy Sync [iTunes link] is powered by Nielsen’s Media-Sync Platform and will showcase interactive content in real time, based on what is happening on screen. Media-Sync technology works in conjunction with the microphone on the iPad to keep the app in sync with the show.
Using the audio watermarks that TV programs typically use for tracking TV ratings, the app can figure out where a viewer is in a program and offer up corresponding content on the iPad. This means that in addition to using the app when watching the show live, users can also use the app when watching on a time-shifted copy of the program or when fast-forwarding or rewinding the show.
This isn’t the first time that we’ve seen entertainment properties target users using audio watermarks and interactive apps. Back in 2009, we wrote about Spot411, a company that makes apps capable of interacting with movies and TV shows, while using technology similar to Nielsen’s Media-Sync.
This fall, ABC and Nielsen released a proof-of-concept version of a Media-Sync app for (the now defunct) My Generation.
For users, these types of applications offer an enhanced and augmented TV viewing experience. As Anthony Soohoo from TV.com told us last May, network executives are increasingly looking at the iPad and other tablet devices as a second screen device.
Likewise, advertisers are interested in using the iPad as a way to better engage with users. Studies have shown that viewers increasingly watch television while also interacting with another device — often smartphones and tablets. Advertisers and brands see these platforms as additional opportunities to reach their target audience.
We think these interactive applications are an interesting idea and we’re impressed that Grey’s Anatomy Sync has integrated social features. We do wish the app would allow users to watch older episodes (and not just clips), or at least offer a direct link to open up the ABC.com streaming app.
I haven’t watched Grey’s Anatomy live in a few years, but I might just make a point to tune in on Thursday night, just to see what the social experience is all about.
What do you think of apps that interact with your TV?