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WRAL Launches Interactive Widget

Capitol Broadcasting station WRAL Raleigh, which was the first U.S. station to broadcast HDTV back in 1996, is now the first station to launch a dedicated application for new “connected TVs” that use a broadband connection to pull content through the Internet.

Working with News Over Wireless (NOW), a Capitol division that already helps 155-plus stations deliver content to mobile phones, WRAL has created an interactive TV widget that works with the Yahoo Widget Engine included in Internet-connected TVs from Samsung, LG, Sony, Vizio and others. The widget allows viewers to access the station’s local news, weather and sports information, including both graphics and streaming video, with a click of the remote.

The WRAL widget content is displayed as a partial overlay on the screen on top of whatever viewers are watching, whether it is normal WRAL programming, a competitor's programming or even a Blu-ray movie.

"No matter what you're watching, you can pull up WRAL content," says WOW General Manager Sam Matheny.

That ease of access and ability to provide interactivity without relying on a pay-TV partner is the key appeal of the widget to local stations, says Matheny, who first learned of the technology when Intel executives demonstrated it at the NAB Futures conference in 2009. WOW is already working on new widgets for 30 stations, drawing on much of the same content and graphical design it has already created for their mobile products.

"There's definitely a very strong place for TV stations in cable systems," Matheny says. "But this is a great way for stations to directly reach viewers."