TVInteract helps on-air TV talent pick and choose which tweets they’d like to display on the screen.

Back when Jenni Hogan was working the morning show at Seattle’s KIRO 7, she became frustrated. As a small earthquake rattled parts of Washington one morning, anchors asked viewers to call the news station or email with what they felt.

To Hogan, this was so old school.

“I was sitting at my computer and my Twitter stream was going crazy with viewers reactions to the earthquake,” she said. “At the time there was no way to quickly get those comments on TV. I felt powerless and I wanted to help.”

Now, Hogan has a solution to that problem.

The traffic anchor-turned-entrepreneur is behind a new company called TVinteract that enables TV anchors, reporters and hosts to select social media content they’d like to show on live TV and simplifies the entire process of moving all that chatter to the screen.

Hogan (right) with KING5’s Mark Wright and Joyce Taylor after a test-run with TVInteract.

Hogan, a 2011 finalist in the worldwide Shorty Awards (the “Oscars of Twitter”), hopes that this helps her former colleagues become more interactive with their viewers.

“The technology I’m creating will help empower talent in breaking news situations to stay on top of social media rather than chasing it,” she told GeekWire.

Many news stations already display tweets on-screen, but the workflow is a bit complicated to actually make that happen. TVinteract’s app allows on-air talent to simply search for a certain topic, person or story they want to watch and pick which tweets to show on the live broadcast.

Anchors access the content with an iPad that’s already connected to the live broadcast either via HDMI or wirelessly with Apple’s AirPlay.

tvinteract21The app, which is powered by Seattle’s, is set up so that even if anchors and reporters have no knowledge of Twitter or social media, they can still search for content they want to share.

“The dream is for every anchor and reporter to have this in their tool kit,” Hogan said. “They already have pen and paper; hopefully they’ll all have this app as well. It’s just another tool for the talent.”

Seattle’s KING5 implemented TVinteract Wednesday morning and the station hopes that the new tool helps bridge social media and live TV.

“We’re excited to experiment with this new technology that makes it easy for our anchors to quickly share social content with the audience viewing from home,” said Mark Briggs, Director of Digital Media at KING5. “TV stations everywhere are trying to solve the problem of connecting social media with the broadcast in a way that is authentic, timely and adds value to the content experience on all platforms.”

TVinteract is still waiting for submission to the App Store. In terms of pricing, Hogan wouldn’t specify but said it will cost TV stations far less than the $400-to-$600 per month they are shelling out for current monthly licensing fees for graphic packages. She also has plans to implement in-app purchases and give stations the ability to use their own branding within the app.

tvinteract122But Hogan is only starting with live TV and has plans for something much bigger. She thinks there is an opportunity for the product in other spaces like Vlogging and digital broadcasts. Eventually, the UW graduate and former national champion rower would like to create a complimentary app for viewers, too.

“I’ve got a big vision for TVinteract,” she said. “While there is huge commercial opportunity in this [live TV] space, there’s an even bigger opportunity to impact how consumers of traditional media engage with social media.”

Hogan is bootstrapping the company herself and is thankful for all the help she’s received from mentors and others in the startup world including CEO Dave McLauchlan, who has worked with Hogan to get the project off the ground.

“I’m definitely not alone on this ride,” she said. “That is a big part of how this has moved so quick. My network and advisors I have are very experienced and it’s allowing me to jump on big opportunities, make important decisions, get the top access to decisions makers in the broadcast industry and most importantly get this in the hands of talent who are the ambassadors of a product like this across America.”

Jenni Hogan
Jenni Hogan

Hogan, who has more than 200,000 followers on Facebook and Twitter combined, is certainly an innovative thinker who pushes the limits of traditional media and the ways we consume information. One of her more notable projects at KIRO was an experiment in social television when Hogan hosted a one-hour show that blended live television and online streaming with real-time interaction on Facebook and Twitter.

She’s moved on from TV and is now trying her hand as an entrepreneur. However, TVinteract actually isn’t Hogan’s first entry into the startup space. She launched something called Mission Hot Mama Inc. a few years ago and it saw mild success but never came to fruition.

Hogan has learned a lot since then, however, and now she is ready to do it big.

“My number one focus is to knock this product out of the ballpark,” she said. “If I can create my dream product for my industry and help broadcast stations transition into embracing the social media space, I feel like the rest will take care of itself.”

Previously on GeekWire: Next Big Thing: InsideSocial Co-Founders Brewster Stanislaw and Joey Kotkins

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  • Christopher Budd

    Interesting concept. Given my line of work and my experience in broadcast my big question is what sort of delay, filtering and review is there for what goes on screen?

    There’s really two things to consider around that.

    First, people are going to try and get prank/inappropriate comments on-screen. It’s just human nature.

    Second, having done live QA webcasting off compiled, scripted answers I can say that when you read on broadcast, you’re in a different part of your brain than if you’re talking. And so there is a very real risk of what I’ve called the “Ron Burgundy teleprompter problem”. I haven’t had THAT problem but I have found myself halfway through an answer to a question and then realized that what I was given made no sense.

    Link to demonstrate the Ron Burgundy teleprompter problem (Note: adult language):

    • Jenni Hogan

      Great question Christopher. This product is the perfect solution to both of your considerations. My goal is to protect the users of this app and make them shine! This empowers the talent to place the tweets they love on TV. They are in full control of what gets shown on the air and anything that goes live is picked by the talent, there is never a surprise. The talent also controls what tweets they’re reading and when they move through those tweets so no waiting on the director or relying on production to get them the tweet on the screen = no more Ron Burgundy moments :) I love that. I should make that our tag line!

      • Christopher Budd

        Hi there,

        Nice work and thanks for the reply. So it’s not real-time but pre-screened?

        That’s great and nicely done. The security and communications person in me thanks you for that. As I suspect many media people will too.

        • Jenni Hogan

          Thanks! Yes exactly. Important middle step with the power that we have to put anything out there to our viewers for sure. Protects everyone, the user, the engineers at the station, the producers who trust the talent with this new power. Loving the feedback and hearing what concerns are making friction for talent to have control right now, then my job is to continue to solve those concerns with easy solutions so we can help social TV move forward with everyone happy and charging on the same team.

          • Carl Setzer

            I expect you’ll also need to work on people trying to deliberately mislead. At the beginning of an “event”, filtering good content from bad is always a challenge. Perhaps the possibility of getting deliberately “junk” information on a network’s screen might be attractive to trolls, et al. Just a random thought on this.

  • Allen

    I’m skeptical that stations will embrace this. One only has to watch the commercials of any news broadcast to realize that the average viewer is middle-aged to elderly. Young people, who are namely the ones on Twitter, don’t watch TV news and the older folks don’t understand Twitter, or typically care what “those young kids” are doing or thinking. While a station may try this out to appear hip, I have my doubts that they can/will implement it correctly and give it a fair shake before abandoning it. Conversely, I do not see younger people tuning in to the news just because they are now reporting selected Tweets.

    • MissBeth

      The beauty of this app is it’s not just for news anchors, but can be used for any live TV event, as well as online via mediums like Ustream, Livestream or YouTube. I participated in an online test of this app and it was very interesting to see how everything is user friendly, and as a viewer it was great to see it from that standpoint while also watching the moderator of the test, as well as the creator use various features of the app.

      With so many choices for gathering the daily news, your stance that young people don’t watch the news, and that older people don’t understand twitter seems quite negative.

      Change is inevitable, and I see this kind of technology as the wave of the future. I prefer to embrace change and see it through, rather than say, that will never work because it’s never been done. Imagine if the Wright brothers had given up, or if a couple guys named Bill & Paul had been talked out of building a computer empire that allows us to communicate the way we are right now.

      Yep I prefer to embrace change :)

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