Showtime and LG bringing second screen interaction to the first screen

By Alex Weprin 

Showtime is partnering with LG Electronics to bring its “Sho Sync” app to the TV set. Currently the app is available on the iPad and delivers a second screen experience while viewers watch Showtime’s drama series. The deal with LG removes the need for that second screen.

“Normally you have to go to an app store, find the app, download and install it, and it is able to hear the audio in the room and content detect,” David Preisman, VP of interactive television tells Lost Remote. “[With this] all those barriers go away completely. This is the first in-program interactive experience for the smart TV.”

The content is similar to the Sho Sync app for iOS, with polls, trivia questions, quotes and predictions. Users are also at times prompted to tweet about the plot, with Showtime selecting a handful to appear in the app.

The big difference is that now the interactive features rise from the bottom of the TV screen, instead of living on a separate screen altogether. Users that have a compatible LG TV that is connected to the Internet will get a prompt when they start watching a show, and they can activate Sho Sync or ignore it. LG says that most of its 2012 models and all of its 2013 models will be able to take advantage of it.

Showtime says it is handling the Sync content carefully.

“For the most part the programs we are dealing with are long-form dramas, and we are very respectful of the content,” Preisman says. “We won’t have a pop-up appear in the middle of a highly intense scene, these things are timed to come up between scenes, the natural points in the show where it feels right.”

There is a menu on the lower right-hand corner, right below the Showtime logo, and unless you knew it was there you would probably not even notice it.

“Normally we assume that people just want to watch TV, so it is in a hidden state,” Preisman says. if you do open it however, you can share what you are watching with Facebook, Twitter or email.

LG says that it is working with a number of other channels and broadcasters to bring this technology to them, but Showtime is just the earliest adopter. While a sports channel could pair interactive features with replays (perhaps the “Coors Light Crunchtime Cam”?), a comedy channel could throw in extra jokes, or a news channel added context.

Showtime, of course, is a premium pay cable channel, so it has no interest in adding ads to the experience.

“We are not trying to sell advertising, we are not charging for this, our goal is simple: we want to make TV better, and more engaging for our subscribers, so that people who love Showtime can love it more,” Preisman says.

Here is what it looks like: