AirPlayTV: Marrying Cell Phones and TV

Posted by: Olga Kharif on March 20, 2006

I recently talked with Morgan Guenther, former president of TiVO, who on March 20 announced his latest venture, a very different kind of a mobile gaming company. AirPlayTV, which will launch in September, will make mobile games designed to be played while watching TV shows.

AirPlayTV, which is backed by wireless powerhouse Qualcomm and by Redpoint Ventures, will launch games allowing fans of, say “Jeopardy,” to enter answers to questions on their cell phones before contestants voice their guesses. The mobile players will be able to compete against friends or unknown players while watching the TV show.

In effect, AirPlayTV will try to take advantage of the fact that 65% of 18- to 35-year-olds have a cell phone with them while watching TV. It will attempt to tap into scores of dedicated fans already watching certain sporting events and TV shows.

How AirPlayTV will work: Your phone will list a schedule of live TV events that come with games. You can decide which games you want to play, and invite friends to participate.

At the start of the TV broadcast, you will sit down in front of the TV with your cell phone. You'll select the corresponding game from the schedule. And then you'll give answers in real-time, during the show. At every turn, you'll know exactly how you did vs. the people you are competing against.

To play the games, users will have to pay a monthly subscription fee (details are still being worked out, but it will be between $4 and $5). That's high, in my opinion. But AirPlayTV might, at a later point, become ads-supported as well.

I think the idea of tapping into TV shows' fan bases in an interactive way is a good one. Already, lots of people use their cell phones to vote for "American Idol." The same viewers might want to play games over cell phone during shows as well.

One note of caution: Several companies are planning to allow users to interact with shows using their remote controls. That technology could prove more popular than cell phones in the long run. After all, the remote control is never too far from the TV.

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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