App helps viewers shop while watching TV programs

TORONTO | Mon Dec 5, 2011 5:03am EST

TORONTO (Reuters) - Looking for the dress you saw on a hit television show or the jerseys worn during a football game or soccer match? An iPad app aims to help viewers shop while watching TV.

Unlike television shopping channels, Watch with Ebay is a new feature in eBay's iPad app that lets users buy items related to the program they're currently viewing.

"The idea is to provide a new form of TV watching entertainment that includes the possibility of shopping and discovering interesting products people never would have discovered otherwise," said Steve Yankovich, vice president of mobile at eBay.

After entering the network provider and channel, items related to the TV show, the actors, guests or teams in a sporting event surface within the app.

"We've seen that guys sitting around watching a sporting event will buy jerseys for the team they like," Yankovich said. "And normally when you're sitting around watching a sporting event on TV, you're not really thinking about being in shopping mode. But that's because no one presented it to you in a frictionless and pleasing way."

A recent study by Yahoo/Nielsen found that 86 percent of smartphone and tablet owners use the devices while watching TV and 25 percent of them are searching for information related to the show.

"There's already a natural thing happening where people are using their device like a companion to TV watching," explained Yankovich.

Purchasing the item in a particular scene of a TV show isn't possible yet, but that could change.

Yankovich said content providers are beginning to tag video frames with the items in those scenes, which will make it possible in the future.

"It will get down to actual product. It could literally be the brand name of clothing that each person is wearing in the scene, including the actual stock-keeping unit (SKU) for the piece of clothing," he said.

When it happens the app could sync with the program to display the item in a scene of a show.

Yankovich said plans for the app are to provide recommendations based on the user's shopping interests, whether it is watches, shoes or autographed memorabilia. When the items are related to the show they're viewing, they will be featured on the screen.

"We will be your personal shopper paying attention so you don't have to. You just lean back, watch TV and we show you stuff you care about on the app," Yankovich said.

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