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ConnecTV, 10 broadcasters look to significantly change how we watch TV

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jim-oSocial TV is coming, and it's going to really change the way you spend your evenings in front of the television.

I've heard a number of speakers talk about how when the average viewer watches TV, their brain activity is actually more passive than when they are asleep. Really, I'm not lying (and I don't think they were, either). And I can buy that. There have been a few times when while watching an episode of, oh, say, House, I've been in a near torpor, only to have trouble falling asleep a couple of hours later.

But that's not going to happen any more, because, the lean back experience we've all grown to know and love, soon is going to be as rare as a DVD.

This morning, 10 broadcast groups that cover some 76 million households in the U.S. announced they had signed a long-term partnership with startup ConnecTV, a real-time social network built for TV viewers that allows them to interact with other folks watching the same program.

It provides a range of related content and promotional opportunities that are directly synchronized to programs being viewed.

The broadcasters involved are a pretty heady group that own a combined 201 stations: 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.

The stations include ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, CW and WB affiliates in 45 of the nation's top 50 markets.

And, they're putting their money where their collective mouths are by investing an undisclosed amount in ConnecTV.

Granted, social media apps aren't just appearing on the scene. There are a number of them already available on connected TVs and, of course, some networks have been toying with them for several years.

But this is the first time that this kind of cooperation between local--and sometimes competing--broadcasters.

The broadcast partners said they'll integrate and synchronize their programming within ConnecTV and promote the new service on-air and on-line. They'll also have a local advertising inventory appear within ConnecTV to drive program promotions and deliver innovative campaigns through their local ad sales teams.

"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, who earned his chops as former President of Gemstar-TV Guide and CEO of TVN Entertainment. "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."

The partnership actually has been percolating for a couple of years, developing its core technology and fine-tuning its social TV platform and user experience. Other interactive TV veterans, Alan Moskowitz, former senior engineer at MobiTV and member of the founding engineering team at TiVo, and Stacy Jolna, former GM of TV Guide OnDemand (TV Guide SPOT) and chief programming officer and founding executive team member of TiVo, have been working through its beta stage (it's currently available on an "invitation only" basis); a public launch is set for early 2012. You can get on their invitation list here.--Jim