LaLiga tests on-screen chat technology from Sceenic

watching TV
People in the TV industry have been talking about multi-tasking while watching TV forever. Sceenic's software brings the conversation to one screen. (Getty Images)

The London-based startup Sceenic is running a trial with the soccer league LaLiga, which is testing Sceenic’s technology so friends can enjoy watching a match together when they’re not in the same location.

Sceenic’s “Watch Together” software allows friends to set up an on-screen chat that appears in a vertical bar to the right of the video programming on their screens. The friends can talk about the programming in real time as they watch the show.

Sceenic’s Watch Together software will be integrated into LaLiga’s OTT platform. The Spanish football league has about 3.3 billion mobile users, and Sceenic aims to reach about 10% of La Liga’s 400,000 viewers of its free service by January.

Sceenic COO Jonathan Williams said the company provides code for set-top-boxes, mobile devices, web browsers, or via a camera connected to smart TVs that allows people to video chat on the same screen while they’re watching the content. People in the television industry have been talking about multi-tasking forever. And indeed, viewers do multi-task while they’re watching TV. For example, while viewers were watching the newest episodes of House of Cards, they were simultaneously chatting with friends via WhatsApp or FaceTime or Skype.

“We’re trying to bring the conversation to the same platform,” said Williams. “We started doing it because the conversation was happening in a separate screen. We can bring the conversation they’re having outside the platform to the platform.”

He said besides increasing viewer enjoyment, the Watch Together software can help platforms reduce churn, and it can bring new marketing opportunities as well.

In 2016 Sceenic started going after broadcasters, cable operators and telcos, mostly in the UK where it’s based. After running a trial with BT Sports, it won a contract with the UK sports broadcaster to run its software in a “pure mobile” deal. More than 85% of BT Sports viewers already watch the programming on their mobile devices, so BT is installing the Sceenic software on its existing mobile app. 

“Right now, we’re in the integration process with them,” said Williams. “BT Sports has 11 million clients; we’re aiming to reach around 250,000 clients.”

Sceenic is also working with other un-named prospects around the world. One of these companies is based in Qatar, and it’s looking at Sceenic’s technology for something related to the next World Cup.

Williams said it’s also in talks with a well-known company in the U.S., which could develop this technology on its own. However, this company may be looking at Sceenic as a possible acquisition.