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WE TV, Wedding Central To Marry Content With Interactive TV

Want to read Joan Rivers' stream-of-consciousness tweets as you watch her new show on WE TV?

That could be coming to a cable set-top near you next year: Rainbow Media's WE TV and Wedding Central plan to launch interactive TV apps in the first half of 2011 that will be able to provide features including audience polling with live results, trivia, live Twitter feeds and a record/remind feature.

The apps, developed by New York-based Ensequence, will be based on CableLabs' Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format, which has become cable's de facto standard for delivering ITV.

The interactive capabilities will be enabled for several WE TV and Wedding Central shows, such as Bridezillas, My Fair Wedding With David Tutera, The Locator and the 2011 premiere Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best?

"Women are social, and this is another way to engage women in our programming," said Jen Robertson, senior vice president of digital media and business development for WE TV and Wedding Central. "We're going to pick different features to see what fits organically with the content."

Robertson wouldn't say which MSOs the programmer expects to work with on its interactive TV launch. "A lot of this for us will be operational learnings," she said.

The EBIF app for WE TV and Wedding is about 125 Kiolbytes and is delivered within the programming stream. When a viewer tunes to the channel, the app is loaded on the set-top box, ready to be "triggered." The application doesn't load on screen until the viewer hits select on their remote control, in response to an on-screen prompt.

Rainbow parent Cablevision Systems has rolled out EBIF user agents to all its 2.9 million digital subscribers but hasn't yet deployed apps based on the spec. Comcast has about 14.5 million EBIF-enabled homes currently across its Motorola footprint, and Time Warner Cable will have about 4.5 million by the end of 2010.

WE TV and Wedding Central will use the Ensequence iTV Manager interactive platform to deliver apps specifically tailored to each network's brand environment and content. The programmer is taking care to make sure the interactive elements don't interfere with other on-screen promos and graphics, Robertson said: "We don't want to overwhelm people."

In the future, Ensequence envisions extending its software to deliver interactive apps for TV shows to mobile phones, tablets and other non-TV devices, CEO Peter Low said. "The programmers and creative people are going to want to communicate to their audience regardless of the platform."

Ensequence's customers include NBC Universal, MTV Networks, ESPN, Showtime, The Walt Disney Co., Dish Network, DirecTV and Verizon Communications.