The partnership involves big names in local TV including Belo, Cox, E.W. Scripps, Gannett, Hearst, and Media General. They want to enhance TV viewing beginning in early 2012 by offering an app that enables Apple or Android mobile devices to automatically detect what you’re watching. The stations then would feed additional info about the shows — including local and syndicated fare — as well as opportunities to connect with other viewers. Yes, they’ll also send ads to your device. Here’s how they describe the free service, to be called ConnecTV:

Emeryville, CA – November 15, 2011 – Ten leading television broadcast groups with stations in markets covering 76 million U.S. households today announced a long-term commercial partnership with Silicon Valley-based start-up ConnecTV, a free, real-time social network built for TV viewers. ConnecTV expands the TV experience by allowing viewers to interact with other fans watching the same program, while providing a broad range of related content and promotional opportunities that are directly synchronized to programs being viewed.

Participating broadcast TV groups include: Barrington Broadcasting Group, Belo Corp., Cox Media Group, E.W. Scripps Co., Gannett Broadcasting, Hearst Television Inc., Media General Inc., Meredith Corp., Post-Newsweek Stations Inc. and Raycom Media. Combined, these TV groups own 201 stations made up of ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, CW and WB affiliates in 45 of the nation’s top 50 markets. Nine of the 10 broadcast groups had previously formed a venture named Pearl, which, as part of this partnership, will expand and coordinate the affiliate base of participating local broadcasters for ConnecTV.

All broadcast partners plan to integrate and synchronize their programming within ConnecTV and promote the new service on-air and on-line. As part of the commercial agreement, the broadcasters will have local advertising inventory appear within ConnecTV to drive program promotions and deliver innovative campaigns through their local ad sales teams. In addition, a number of the broadcasters have made an undisclosed investment in ConnecTV.

“From its very beginning, television has always been a big part of the daily American discourse. In this digital era, much of this dialogue now takes place on social media platforms. As local broadcasters, we love that people are talking about our shows,” said Alan Frank, President and CEO of Post-Newsweek Stations on behalf of Pearl. “We looked long and hard for a partner that could create a compelling environment that would encourage, enhance and monetize that dialogue, even during live programs including news coverage or sporting events – and we found it at ConnecTV.”

“Our mission is for ConnecTV to be the social network that empowers entertainment, news and sports fans to share the greatest moments in television,” said ConnecTV Co-Founder Ian Aaron. “The team at ConnecTV is thrilled to work with the leaders in local news and television across America as we bring to market an innovative and engaging second-screen experience for all TV viewers that works seamlessly across all programming genres and on all platforms. With over five billion TV viewers and the explosion of tablets and smart phones globally, we are truly at the beginning of a new way to watch TV.”

Today’s news of the partnership with the leading broadcasters represents the first public announcement about ConnecTV. For the past two years, the venture has been developing its core technology, and fine-tuning its social TV platform and user experience. Available now in an “invitation only” sneak preview, ConnecTV will be launching to the public in early 2012. ConnecTV was founded by interactive television veterans Ian Aaron, former President of Gemstar-TV Guide and CEO of TVN Entertainment; Alan Moskowitz, former senior engineer at MobiTV and member of the founding engineering team at TiVo; and Stacy Jolna, former General Manager of TV Guide OnDemand (TV Guide SPOT) and Chief Programming Officer and founding executive team member of TiVo.

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