Integra5 Preps Real-Time TV Chat Application

Sports fans, soap-opera buffs and other TV aficionados may soon be able to chat with their friends live while watching a cable channel, through an application provided by communications infrastructure developer Integra5.

Integra5’s MediaFriends TV Chat—which the company plans to showcase next week at CableLabs’ Summer Conference—allows users to invite members of online buddy lists to join a group chat on TV and participate in the live discussion via text messages sent from their mobile devices.

“There’s a younger group of users who are communicating differently from the masses—they’re using e-mail for formal communication only,” Integra5 CEO Meredith Flynn-Ripley said. “Service providers have to be attuned to how this group uses communication, to meet their needs.”

Integra5, based in Woburn, Mass., sells a platform to cable operators that provides caller ID on TVs.

With MediaFriends TV Chat, users can set up and manage buddy lists on their PC, which they can then access on TV. Using their remote control, they can invite individuals or groups to watch TV programming together. If buddies accept the invitation, their TV automatically tunes to that channel, and a live group chat is visible on the screen.

Flynn-Ripley claimed early MSOs that her company is working on MediaFriends TV Chat are considering offer the feature to subscribers for an additional $2 per month.

Although MediaFriends TV Chat would initially work only among subscribers on the same cable system, Flynn-Ripley said a few of operators are looking to “federate” their systems so that their subscribers could use the MediaFriends applications.

The MediaFriends TV Chat is scheduled for availability in early 2009. Future applications will incorporate other social-networking features, such as personalization features, presence (so that users can see who is watching a TV program), and integration with social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace.