As its name suggests, Applicaster wants to make mobile apps a direct extension of the TV broadcast experience.
Today, the Tel Aviv-based company is announcing it has raised $10.5 million so it can do more to make the phrase “watching TV” mean you’re watching two screens.
“Entertainment is now served cross-screen, not only as lean back but also as lean forward,” CEO Jonathan Laor told VentureBeat via email.
The company white-labels what it calls “cross-screen TV experiences,” providing a platform and tools to enable social networking, interactive programming, competitions, and other features on mobile devices that are synchronized with a TV program.
In late 2013, for instance, Spanish-language network Univision used Applicaster so that viewers of its telenovela soap opera, Lo Que La Vida Me Robó, could receive personal messages on mobile devices from characters in the series.
Applicaster’s CrossMates service is designed to bring characters directly into the message stream of viewers. An individual viewer can communicate with one character through texts, photos, voice messages, privileged plot info, product offers, and video clips. The system even allows the characters’ messages to include details gleaned from their conversations with viewers.
Other Applicaster capabilities include social check-ins coordinated with program airtimes, as well as show-related competitions and commenting. An app for Spain’s Mediaset España’s version of Survivor allowed users to follow their favorite contestant, get daily summaries and exclusive content, view a multimedia timeline, and participate in a weekly voting event whose results were broadcast live.
Applicaster says it has released more than a hundred mobile apps for over three dozen broadcasters, including Fox International, Endemol, Mediacorp, and others.
Broadcasters can utilize Applicaster’s platform, tools, and app components to create unique experiences in a turnkey solution, or they can develop their own that communicates via an API with Applicaster. The platform is integrated with capabilities offered by Adobe, online video provider Ooyala, advertising service Google DFP (DoubleClick for Publishers), ad platform Freewheel, Net analytics firm Comscore, and audio/video production software Avid, among others. This enables, for instance, the addition of video clips for mobile to be handled as part of a regular workflow in the Avid editing system.
Watching TV while using a mobile device has been around since smartphones and tablets gained traction. But two-screen experiences are now reaching a new level of evolution.
For instance, audience measurement firm Nielsen said last February that 84 percent of smartphone and tablet owners use their devices while watching TV. And mobile analytics firm Flurry reported in November that time spent on mobile devices had grown to nearly three hours daily. By contrast, Flurry noted, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has said that TV watching remains two hours and 48 minutes.
In other words — in terms of time spent — TV is now the second screen in the house.
Laor told us that, if the program “comes to life with those interactions, or if the plot of a scripted show might be extended so that characters and storylines continue to live beyond airtime — that engages audiences in a big way.”
The results, according to Applicaster, keeps viewers engaged with program content, boosts ratings, and increases revenue by providing more advertising and sponsorship opportunities.
Second screen TV-watching is still a frontier, and there are lots of pioneers — Shazam, Watchwith, and Mobovivo, to name just a few of the independent vendors. Social networks like Twitter and Facebook commonly orient conversations around TV shows and events, while Google’s Chromecast and Amazon’s Fire TV Stick are positioned as second screen enablers.
Laor said that Applicaster is offering a unique end-to-end solution, covering video delivery, apps, management, advertising, sponsorship, and analytics.
There are competitors for some points in the process, he said, such as ones offering social TV experiences and others providing second screen interactivity. “We are a cohesiveness layer,” he said, meaning that the Applicaster platform can provide an entire solution for second screen experiences, or it can provide the missing pieces.
The new round of funding, which brings the total raised thus far to $18.5 million, was led by Pitango Venture Capital with participation by existing investor 83North (formerly Greylock IL). Laor said the new money will be used to accelerate platform development of new features and modules, and to expand the company’s presence in the U.S. and Europe.