Published on October 19th, 2013 | by Wez Evans


ShowPal – Second Screen Technology In Ireland

ShowPal is a free app currently available on iOS with plans of an android release soon that uses second screen technology to allow a less linear experience when viewing TV. The app was developed by Irish designers Axonista and at the moment works solely in conjunction with Tv3.

Running on a tablet or smartphone while your television plays in the background, the app uses an embedded audio watermark  to update according to what is happening on your main screen and therefore what populates your various feeds within ShowPal in real time.

Examples include links to recipes used in Come Dine With Me as the meal is prepared or topical Twitter conversations during X-Factor. More interesting links include news and facts about actors as they appear on screen. As I watched a scene from Emmerdale featuring two characters at a table discussing a third character I was prompted with an article about how that third, unseen character was being replaced by a different actor in a future episode.

ShowPal’s director of online, Stephen Grant, says that television still has a viewership, and that many people enjoy browsing various social media while their shows play on in the background. “Broadcast TV is generating a significant amount of online activity,” Grant said. “40% of tweets  that happen in the UK during prime TV hours are related to television. People are watching television but that’s leading them to a lot of online activity and ShowPal is about facilitating, embracing, and encouraging, that activity but doing it in a broadcaster environment as opposed to spreading it out to Facebook or Twitter or wherever else it might be.”

Links and information are generated ahead of time by ShowPals content team so everything posted is relevant and, objectively, interesting. We were shown a lengthy list of examples including IMDb links, player stats during football matches, featured clothing during fashion shows like Xposé, and flight prices for Las Vegas during The Hangover. At it’s core, ShowPal is attempting to anticipate what you might switch to search the internet for and bring it directly to you instead.

ShowPal’s interface is easy to use and shouldn’t be a roadblock for the less tech savvy.

An interesting thing about this audio watermark technology is that it means ShowPal is powered entirely by the shows as you watch them, which means that prerecorded episodes from a week ago are populated in the same way as live content. There’s even a spoiler prevention feature which means you can follow previous Twitter commentary without accidentally ruining the ending of whatever you’re watching.

The content is produced by a team of three full time researchers with two freelancers and with a group that size it’s fairly easy to keep things on a more personal and slightly less formal level. Content researchers Olive Geoghegan and Mark Orford say they’re happy with the team dynamic they have. “We’ve tried to divide things up according to our personalities,” says Geoghegan. “We’re trying to play to our strengths about what we’re interested in. We don’t want to have content that you could find yourself, we want to be able to find interesting and innovative ways of communicating.”

“We want to be creative in what we’re doing,” agreed Orford. “We want to delve deeper into shows. We used our beta testing period to mine every single nugget of information we can find about X-Factor and Coronation Street for the app.”

Currently Tv3 are running audio watermarks for ShowPal from 6pm until midnight with all shows featured functioning alongside ShowPal. As an incredibly specific marketing tool and useful customer companion app, there’s a lot of potential in this entirely Irish-built tool. If nothing else, it’s always refreshing to see older mediums adapting to the future rather than stubbornly rejecting it.

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About the Author

is a gigantic man-child with a deep-seated love for games and a passion for all things nerdy. Having studied interactive digital media, animation, and multimedia, he's a huge fan of story-telling, innovative ideas, and listing things in threes.

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