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Happy and You Know It? ABC News Offers Digital Means to Tell the World

Walt Disney news unit unveils Social Soundtracker for live-streaming video

In a move that could turn watching TV news into the sort of couch-potato gabfest one might expect to take place during the Super Bowl or the series finale of “Lost,” Walt Disney’s ABC News introduced a co-viewing app it believes will give TV viewers more reason to stream and consume live video.

The technology, known as “Social Soundtracker,” lets a user express an emotional reaction to what he or she sees on the screen, and also tells that person how many friends or social-network connections are watching the same streaming video at the same exact moment.

“We hope viewers find Social Soundtracker to be a personal and interactive way to engage with their friends while watching their favorite video online or on TV,” said Joe Ruffolo, senior veep at ABC News Digital, in a prepared statement. “It is a completely new way to watch video and engage with content, and we’re excited to learn more about how people use it.”

Social Soundtracker will launch on Saturday, April 27th during ABCNews.com’s live-streaming of the White House Correspondents Dinner in Washington, D.C. Complete live stream coverage and access to ABC News’ Social Soundtracker will be available from 8:00 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. ET at www.abcnews.com/live.

In May, a mobile version of Social Soundtracker will be available for free in the iTunes App store, enabling users to engage with live TV programs with their iPhone device. Users can log in with their Facebook identification.

The technology can be used with any sort of live streaming video, whether that be news, sports or entertainment. Users can tap or click various emoticons to indicate whether the video content makes them laugh, offends them or even makes them go “awwww….” While the availability of such stuff conjures up images of viewers hitting emoticons during moments of national crisis, ABC News said the use of the new second-screen offering is, ultimately, up to the people who seize upon the service. “Social Soundtracker will evolve to best suit viewers’ needs,” said Ruffalo.

ABC News may have more reason to make its video stickier for digital viewers than its co-workers at ABC’s entertainment unit. In 2011, ABC News entered into a partnership with Yahoo News to share stories and produce web-video series, part of an effort that would allow traffic for both sites to be counted together. Earlier this month, ABC News and Yahoo said the two sites had trumped CNN, Huffington Post Media Group, NBC News Digital and CBS News for 14 consecutive months by millions of page views, unique users, video views and total minutes. In March, the Yahoo-ABC News network had 2.5 billion page views.

Of course, the Walt Disney unit may simply be following consumers’ lead. Citing a new report from eMarketer, ABC News illustrated what it called “a growing convergence between social media and TV.” More than 83% of Facebook users and roughly 66% of Twitter users engage with their social networks while watching television, the news division said. In another study from the Interactive Advertising Bureau, 64% of viewers with four screens – a smart phone, TV, computer and tablet, -were likely to use social media while watching television.

How many ABC News viewers have enough cash to have all four devices was not revealed.

ABC News has scheduled additional events for its new Social Soundtracker, including its “GMA Live” webcast on April 29 and two commencement addresses expected from President Obama, one scheduled at Ohio State University on May 5 and one slated for Morehouse College on May 19.

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