“Social TV” has typically referred to the digital chatter about a show — to boost viewer engagement and encourage live tune-in.
Now New York-based startup Watchitoo wants to extend the concept, by bringing live video of Internet fans and other commentators into TV broadcasts.
The company has pitched several networks on a device that can incorporate feeds from up to 25 webcam participants into an HD telecast. Watchitoo CEO Rony Zarom said many large programmers are interested in the idea, which could be used for news programs, talk shows and other live events, but he wouldn’t identify them.
“There’s a desire to involve viewers in creating content on TV as well as the Internet,” he said.
Some TV networks have already used the Web-only version of Watchitoo’s system. For example, Discovery Communications’ Animal Planet hosted a live online event for Whale Wars: Viking Shores in May, during which the show’s participants debated whaling issues.
Watchitoo is selling two models of its one-rack-unit encoder: a $5,000 unit that supports up to 720p HD and up to 10 concurrent streams; and a $10,000 unit with support for up to 1080p HD and 25 streams. The company charges additional fees for hosting live feeds.
As opposed to simply ingesting individual Skype feeds, the Watchitoo encoder provides “a virtual control room” to control video quality and set other parameters prior to broadcast, Zarom said: “It’s a professional tool that you can’t get from Skype.”
Founded in 2007, the 40-employee Watchitoo has raised $10 million from Decima Ventures.
Programming Note:TV’s Cloud Power, exploring how operators and media companies are tapping into cloud-based technologies, has been rescheduled for Thursday, Sept. 13, at New York’s Roosevelt Hotel. Scheduled speakers include IBM’s Bob Fox, PwC’s Gordon Castle and Verizon’s Maitreyi Krishnaswamy. See multichannel.com/cloud for more info.