As many viewers turn to online fan sites during the finale of this season's American Idol, SecondScreen Networks is testing a new ad system that synchs up the delivery of online ads with TV ads on Idol.
The tests, which have been running for the last three weeks and will conclude with the last episode of America Idol on May 25th, are not affiliated in any way with Fox, the producer of Idol or the advertisers on the broadcast. For the purposes of the test, SecondScreen created its own ads and delivered them to the Americanidolnet.com fan site in synch with the broadcast ads.
"We've been doing it as a proof of concept and we've shown that the technology works and that users respond to it," notes Seth Tapper, founder of the company.
Tapper notes that the growing use of tablets, laptops and other devices by people as they watch TV programming has prompted a number of programmers, operators and sports leagues to explore the creation of services that would allow viewers to uses these additional screens to enhance their TV experience.
"But no one has solved the problem of how they are going to make money and the right way to bring advertising into the second screen environment," he argues.
To help overcome that problem, SecondScreen was founded last September. It has applied for a variety of patents around its technology, which detect when an ad starts on a TV channel and then serves another ad to a web site within a quarter of a second.
A pizza ad on TV, for example, might prompt a ad to a website that would allow a user to order a pizza.
The ability to accurately synch up the TV and online ads is particularly important for live shows like Idol or sporting events, when it is difficult to predict the timing of the ad.
Besides marketing the service to national networks and advertisers, Tapper is also looking to work with broadcast stations in the large DMAs. "We think there is a huge opportunity there for local stations with direct response advertising," he notes.