ABC News launching ‘Social Soundtracker’

By Alex Weprin 

At a press conference in its New York headquarters this morning, ABC News launched a new product it calls the “Social Soundtracker.” The product is meant to serve as a second screen device, or as an added layer on top of the program you are watching. At launch it will be available on desktop, with a mobile app coming on May. So, what does it do?

The basic idea is that it tries to replicate something of a watercooler discussion around programs. After logging in (through Facebook only at launch), there will be emoticons representing different things, like laughter, boos and “awws.” As you watch, you can press one of the emoticons. The app can sync with all of your friends who are watching to create a real-time response. If a joke goes over well, and a number of friends clicked the “laugh” emoticon, a wave of laughter can come through your speakers.

The idea is to turn every show into a group viewing experience.

“We think it is a great way to engage the audience, because suddenly that person sitting at home is part of the audience,” ABC News president Ben Sherwood said.

For now, the app is limited to a small number of ABC News digital streams, though it will be added to ABC News TV programs in coming months. The hope is that other ABC and Disney properties will use it, and maybe even other media companies as well. With competitors fighting for eyeballs, the Social Soundtracker will need to not only differentiate itself, but also make itself useful;. The money and promotional backing of a major media company probably doesn’t hurt.

It can also serve as a datastream.

“It will generate a lot of anonymous information that has a lot of different pieces.” Sherwood says. “It will be able to tell us what is funny, it will be able to tell us what is sad, what people are booing about and then as we said to you, this is just the beginning.”