Q&A with David Amselem, CEO of TvTak on the Second Screen Opportunity

David Amselem, CEO of TvTakDavid Amselem is CEO of TvTak, a second screen platform that can recognise TV programmes and advertising. Next week David will be speaking in Paris at UbiQ, the digital entertainment showcase. Here David discusses the TvTak proposition, how the technology works and how he thinks the second screen is going open up exciting new opportunities for brands.

What does TvTak do and who are you working with?

TvTak is a platform that allows the user to point to a TV and within one second our technology is able to recognise the TV programme or commercial. The idea is to make TV interactive. We don’t need to have a special TV and it works on any iPhone or Android device and there are a lot of things you can do with it. Our first customer was Orange who launched an application called TVCheck, first in France and recently in the UK. We’ve also done a few other projects with Pepsi on their Walkers brand, and Polishop, which is the largest direct response TV operator in Latin America.

How does the technology work? 

It’s works through video recognition. So the idea is that you point your phone at the TV, which then makes an analysis of the video which is actually very small – only 1k per second – and we can match this analysis to prerecorded content or commercials, but we can also work with live TV. At the moment you can use TVCheck in the UK with all of the free-to-air channels.

So do you need to have any relationships with the TV stations or have a watermark embedded in the TV signal?

No. We have no relationships with any of the TV stations, so we watch TV like you watch it at home and we don’t need to record any videos. It’s similar to what Google does with websites, where Google analyses the websites and creates an index out of it. We do the same thing with video and when you point with your iPhone we simply match that data with the index we’ve created whether it’s live or prerecorded.

How are brands using your technology?  Are they developing their own apps or are they more inclined to use existing second screen platforms?

In the case of TVCheck we are are just the platform provider, but the application itself has been developed by Orange and is managed by their team so they do their own campaigns, so we were only providing the technology. With Walkers we created an app that we developed ourselves which you would point at the commercial to get an exclusive clue about the mystery crisp flavours they were promoting at the time.

Interestingly, about 40 percent of the people who downloaded the app pointed to commercials which is significant. So if people are motivated properly, they are willing to interact and quickly understand how to use the technology.

We did that campaign as we’re part of the PepsiCo10 which chooses ten innovative startups to run pilot campaigns for their different brands. So we started with Walkers and we’re in the process of talking to them about other projects.

A common complaint from media buyers is that they’re excited about what the second screen offers, but it’s impossible to achieve scale. Is scale still a problem for TvTak and when do you think the second screen opportunity is going to grow into something more scalable?

I think the model still need to be found. We’re already talking to brands who are taking the right approach and are completely rethinking the way they communicate. We have the ability to point at the TV and display a landing page and I think this basic functionality.

The successful companies will be the ones who offer something completely different in terms of engagement, whether that’s gamification around the commercials. What we’ve learned in the past year is that there is no barrier to people interacting.

Users interact quite easily once they have downloaded the app and as I said before interaction rates are around 40 or 50 percent. So it’s just a question of finding out what it is that makes people interact.  At this point I don’t think anyone has been particularly successful with finding that out yet.

However, there are lots of possibilities. Take Polishop for example. While a large part of their business is direct response shopping on TV where viewers dial up a number, they also have shops and an ecommerce platform with a significant catalogue of products.

With their mcommerce app, you can point to any TV commercial or to a digital display in the train station, a shopping mall, or anywhere people are waiting and have nothing to do, and point to the TV and buy the product they are watching. I think the ‘point and buy’ approach will be one of the more successful ways to use these apps.

There are also a lot of opportunities to allow users to play, so we’re looking at gamification for TV viewing for sports, where users are ready to have fun and engage. So, for example, if you’re watching a football game, whoever guesses that something happens at the right moment could become the mayor of the Chelsea supporters.  I think these are the type of applications that we’re going to see develop over the next year or so and then I think we’ll start to see some significant traction.

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