Marketing

TV With a Side of iPad Content

9/26/2011 12:01 AM Eastern

People don’t just “watch TV.” They do
other stuff while parked in front of the tube.

And one of those activities — noodling around with a
smartphone or a tablet device — is emerging as a business
opportunity, as a way to deliver
interactive content and advertising
to TV viewers.

The latest to jump into the “second
screen” fray is New York-based startup
Umami. In the next few weeks,
the year-old firm expects to debut an
iPad app, free to consumers, that will
serve up contextually relevant content
for shows on 40 broadcast and
cable networks.

FINGERPRINT FILES

“We’re focused on delivering an awesome
experience for consumers,”
Umami CEO Scott Rosenberg said.
“We think the TV ecosystem will reward
that.”

Umami fingerprints the audio in
TV content across the 40 networks
using a large-scale digital video recorder system.

When a user fires up the app, it “listens” for which
channel is currently on by comparing it to the Umami
fingerprint database, then pulls up news, cast pages,
episode guides and social media feeds from various
sources in a flipbook-like format. The system works on
DVR recordings, too.

Umami’s business model is to land deals with TV networks
and producers, to deliver ads and show-related
material to avid fans. “We wanted to make publishing
to our platform dirt simple,” Rosenberg said. He claimed
Umami already has several media partners lined up,
though he declined to identify them.

Umami (pronounced “ooh-MA-mee”) is a Japanese
word that refers to a fifth taste of “savoriness.” The idea:
the app is like a flavor-enhancer for TV.

The company faces a slew of competitors, ranging
from Nielsen — whose MediaSync product uses audio
watermarks for second-screen apps with live TV — to
Shazam Entertainment, Yahoo’s IntoNow, Invidi Technologies
and Spot411 Technologies (see “Interactive TV
Moves to Second Screen,” July 18). There’s even
another New York-based startup called SecondScreen
Networks.

Rosenberg sees his primary competitor as networks trying
to build apps themselves, a
proposition he notes is time-consuming
and results in a show- or
network-specific app that’s a narrow
slice of the entire TV viewing
experience.

On the other hand, an app
like MTV’s WatchWith, which
provides content synchronized
with the networks’ top primetime
shows, could coexist with
Umami. “We don’t think those
activities are mutually exclusive,”
he said.

NEW-MEDIA PEDIGREE

The founders tout their experience
in TV and new
media. Rosenberg most recently
served as vice president of
advanced advertising at Rovi, and has worked at Black-
Arrow, Intel and ReplayTV. Umami chief technology officer Bryan Slavin has worked at broadband video ad
firm Lightningcast (acquired by AOL), Leap Wireless
and BroadSoft.

The startup formed in the summer of 2010 and this
spring raised $1.65 million in seed funding from Battery
Ventures, New Enterprise Associates and independent
investors.

March