Interactive Test for ‘Maury’

Jan 1, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Syndicated programs, which air largely in different time slots on different stations around the country, have lagged behind the broadcast networks in exploiting the possibilities of airing shows on mobile devices.

Now NBC Universal Domestic Distribution and the producers of the “Maury” talk show have figured out a way to take on those obstacles by teaming up with MindMatics, a company involved with the development and implementation of mobile services and interactive TV applications, to give viewers the opportunity to participate in syndication’s first-ever mobile interactive experience.

The project will be test driven on “Maury” between Jan. 3 and Jan. 30 on Sinclair Broadcast stations WTTE in Columbus, Ohio and KVCW in Las Vegas. “Maury” airs at 10 a.m. in Columbus, and 5 p.m. in Las Vegas.

The January launch of the project will allow viewers of “Maury” to text message answers to questions and participate in local contests, which will be held in real-time during each episode, with the winners in both regional markets announced on-air at the show’s conclusion.

“About a year ago, this was something we started studying and we found that broadcasters in Northern Europe and Asia were having tremendous success with technology that would allow us to take interactive models into syndicated programming,” said Jay McNamara, senior VP of sales strategy development at NBCU Domestic Distribution. “To date, this type of mobile experience had been limited to national broadcasts, but now viewers of `Maury’ will be able to enjoy enhanced mobile features in real time.”

The United States counted about 5.1 million mobile video subscribers at the end of the third quarter, double the number of subscribers at the end of the first quarter. The mobile video business generated nearly $141 million in the third quarter, roughly on par with revenue for mobile games, a business that’s been around much longer.

The MindMatics encoding technology and interactive TV server provide real-time mobile interactive capabilities without the need for traditional in-studio employee monitoring. These options give the broadcasters a more compelling show to market that has the potential to realize profit beyond advertising revenue.

For the first two weeks of the interactive contest, audience members will guess which of the envelopes presented on screen has $200 hidden inside. During the second two weeks, viewers will be asked to text message answers to questions posed throughout various segments of the show, all relating to topics covered during that particular episode.

In addition to revealing the answers to each question and the game winner during each episode, aggregate viewer responses will be displayed graphically in real time.

“For us, this is ultimately an investment in the future of the show,” said Betsy Berman, VP of marketing for the syndicator.

MindMatics general manager Hans Henkes saw both a challenge and an opportunity with “Maury.”

“Given the level of its audience loyalty, `Maury’ was a natural choice for the first syndicated show to roll out our unique, interactive solution,” Mr. Henkes said.