Media Perspective: Digital media is at last making waves with live stream TV

It's a phenomenon I think we first discussed after the last Eurovision Song Contest (you know, when the Russians won, before we got Andrew Lloyd Webber to restore us to our rightful status of "not last"). Said phenomenon being the use of digital media as a back channel for live TV.

It was just a bunch of people in front of their tellies chatting via Twitter, but it felt like an early sign of something important and interesting. And we got more of a hint at that future at the weekend with ITV's use of Twitter and AudioBoo as part of its FA Cup final coverage.

If you want a glimpse at the real possibilities of this stuff, have a look at the video at http://vimeo.com/3626105. It's from a US conference session about the future of TV and features Kevin Slavin of a company called area/code talking about some of its projects.

Some of these are pure games: not like your Halos or Grand Theft Autos, but games out in the real world, using phones and computers and real-life networks.

The sort of stuff that crops up in every creative pitch these days, though different and better, because these guys have actually done it before. But the stuff that should excite anyone trying to make TV interesting again are the projects they've done for networks.

You'll have heard about Sharkrunners: a project made for Discovery's Shark Week that lets you play a game with real live shark data. Or there's Parking Wars, a game on Facebook that threatens to be more popular and valuable than the programme it promotes. But the best projects are those that integrate with the actual broadcasts.

They have, for instance, built a "competitive chat" system for viewers of MTV's reality-soap thing The Hills. So when it's on TV you get to be snarky about the programme with people across the country, and you get to rate everyone else's comments.

Or there's a brilliant thing they did to promote re-runs of The Sopranos, which lets you create a game board featuring the characters on the show, and then has your computer interacting live with the TV. You should look at it on the video, it's hard to explain, but worth understanding. In fact, the BBC recently did a similarly splendid thing called The Apprentice Predictor, which added chat and prediction to the broadcasts of The Apprentice.

Frankly, I think it's all rather exciting and adds a vital new dimension to telly. So, next I'm going to see if there's some way this column could have a game attached or something. Let's see if ill-informed punditry can be enhanced with a Facebook application: "They're not as good at simulating an opponent as they are at connecting you to one."

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