RDF Digital lets "Sleuths" TV show viewers participate via mobile

"Sleuths," a new children's television program, will let viewers participate and interact with the show using their mobile phones.

During the show the audience registers and customizes their own avatar, which will appear on the screen representing them while the show airs live on national TV. The mobile participation TV program (MoPA-TV) will be a first for RDF Digital USA.

"The show has a mobile component because for the first time in [the] U.S. television viewers can actually interact with a narrative storyline in real time," said Max Benator, senior vice president of multiplatform entertainment of RDF USA. "We've seen mobile games attached to the back of game shows, or unrelated contests associated with some promotion.

"There have even been some U.S. attempts at British style call TV," Mr. Benator said. "Sleuths is different, though. Sleuths is a narrative TV show in which viewers can actually text themselves into the show and interact with the show's stars. Even during reruns."

RDF Media USA, Inc. is the American umbrella of the RDF Media Group, a production and distribution company. Since launching in 2006, RDF USA has produced over 30 series for 14 different networks.

Artificial Life's MoPA-TV lets live TV broadcasters support real-time viewer interaction with their shows using their mobile phones. Viewers can use mobile Web or SMS to register before or during the show to select their on-TV screen name along with their animated 3D avatar of choice.

While in the studio, a real-time joystick control allows a studio operator to create a camera path flying through the 3D scene of all participating viewers' avatars. MoPA-TV can animate over 100,000 participants in real time.

Artificial Life's technology has seen success in Japan and across Europe.

Sleuths, created by Mr. Benator, is a half-hour animated series featuring four kids solving a mystery every week. The series will be pitched to major broadcast and cable networks in September.

The avatars of the registered audience members will appear in the show for voting sessions three different times. Each session a question will be asked and the audience will have to text in their vote within a limited time frame. Those who get it incorrect will be removed from the screen, while those who get the question right will stay for the next question.

The top five avatars that answer all of the questions correctly will appear on screen one final time standing with the main characters at the end of the episode.

With the show comes an online community and additional revenue from premium SMS text messages that bring the audiences' avatars live on screen.

"We'd love to have ads supporting the interactive part of the show and mobile experience," Mr. Benator said. "There are policies in place however that limit when and how you can advertise to kids of a certain age. At the times we're able to deliver advertising appropriately to our audience, we will. We have the technical capability to do it, but only when appropriate."

Mr. Benator said launching a TV series for children with an integrated mobile element means there are many different ways to insert marketing.

"The opportunities are endless, from coordinated advertising between online, the mobile device and the television show, to virtual items for the avatars being sponsored and even having logos on them," he said. "There's so much we can do."