In a notable example of how programmers are looking to use mobile devices to strengthen viewer engagement with their TV shows, MTV has expanded the reach of its co-viewing WatchWith app to the iPhone platform.
With little fanfare, the channel launched a iPad and a desktop version of app last month. Now that the app is available for iPhone, MTV executives say they will begin marketing and promoting the apps.
The free app offers an enhanced experience for its prime time shows that includes additional content; extensive social media features and a curated social conversation that allows users to comment and follow tweets from other fans; and the ability to interact with stars of MTV shows, including Jersey Shore, Teen Wolf and Awkward who will be tweeting during the premier of new episodes.
In developing the app, Colin Helms, vice president of MTV Digital, noted in a briefing that they worked to offer users a consistent experience across all the different platforms-smartphones, tablets and desktop.
The app draws on behind the scenes content created while the shows were in production and the involvement of talent in the app's extensive social media features.
"We've been very focuses on creating a consistent user experience and an additive experience that is not a distracting experience," notes Helms. "We know that if you put too much in front of people it can become cumbersome and distracts from what we want to be the primary experience, which is watching the TV programs."
Developed by Rogue Paper, WatchWith uses a custom filter that displays the best and most "liked" comments in real time. Tweets and comments coming from a viewer's own followers and friends are pushed to the top of the feed.
The app uses the device's data connection to determine the time and the users location to highlight what is currently playing or will soon be airing on MTV.
This also allows the devices to be synched up with the show so that the WatchWith app can deliver relevant content tied to the timeline of the show, including photos and videos relating to specific characters, actors or events in the program, explains Michael Scogin, VP of mobile for MTV.
Scogin also noted that the social media features are curated and that cast members will be tweeting during show premieres. "The cast participation provides very valuable content," Scogin notes. "It is something they can't get on TV."
Scogin also stresses that the app offers is not only a co-viewing experience tied to the show; it is also content app that provides fans with access to extensive material outside of the linear TV experience.
The main focus of the effort is on live premiers of new episodes but the app can also be synched up to episodes that are recorded on DVRs.
While it is still early days in the development of co-viewing apps and advertising opportunities surrounding those efforts, MTV executives say they plan to bring in sponsors for the apps that are more tightly integrated into the features of the app.
No definitive timeline has been set for an Android version of the app, but it could happen later this year or in the first quarter of 2012.