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NAB Report: KIT Digital Unveils Social TV Platform

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The problem with other company's companion viewing solutions, says Alex Blum chief operating officer of KIT Digital, is that they're limited. They don't connect with the cable or satellite provider, for example, so they can't be used as a remote. Or they rely on audio recognition that can take several seconds for each cue.

Attempting to fill that void, KIT is giving the first public look at its previously announced Social Program Guide (SPG). A full-service solution, it offers control over the TV and a cloud-based DVR, shows preview clips, and includes advanced social features that do more than just display friends' tweets.

The KIT Digital SPG can work with smart TVs or connected TV devices. An app on the TV or connected device adds an overlay to on-screen content. A tablet app then lets the viewer interact with that content.

The smart choices behind the SPG start at the login page, where each member of the family can have a profile, and the whole household can have a joint profile. Parental settings let parents monitor their kids' viewing. The home screen, shown below, displays featured content, recommended programs, and friends' comments. KIT offers a white label version for operators.

KIT's SPG is purely IP-based, and doesn't rely on infrared or audio signals to communicate. The included electronic program guide (EPG) recognizes which channels the user views most often, and surfaces those at the top. Filters let users see only favorite shows or genres.

The SPG features clever social networking tools that let the viewer control the amount of comments that get through. Some types of programming, such as live sports and reality TV shows, have a high social engagement factor, says Blum, while full-length dramas don't. By default, the system displays fewer comments for less social programming.

The platform even allows for social network comments in recorded programs -- without spoiling the action. It caches comments and then shows them at the right moment in the recording, allowing those watching recorded programs to get the fun of communal viewing.

The SPG's Watch List combines recorded, live, and pay-per-view programs into a common list, so viewers can see everything that interests them in one place.

Blum calls the SPG a conversation starter with operators. It's currently in alpha testing with select companies. Media companies in the U.S. are less eager to experiment with new systems than their European counterparts, notes Blum, due to the money at stake. Still, he says, the SPG is a strong differentiator for a vertically-integrated media company. KIT Digital isn't announcing any partnerships at this time.

Besides the SPG, KIT is also announcing a partnership with IBM that combines IBM's software for backend processes with KIT's ability to stream to multiple devices. It's been in development for 18 months, says Blum, and plays off the core strengths of both companies. The finished product lets operators manage IP customers like they do traditional customers.

"This is a consumer-led revolution, and broadcasters and network operators now realize that if they don't offer a true multiscreen experience, their audiences will simply churn. KIT digital is all about helping these customers respond to the disruption with great technology and user experience," says Blum.

KIT Digital is showing a fully functional prototype of the SPG at the NAB conference.

KIT Digital SPG

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