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Dinges: Austin company wins Emmy for marrying social media, TV

Gary Dinges
gdinges@statesman.com

With awards season in full swing, it’s not just big-name actors getting all the attention.

An Austin firm’s efforts to wed TV and social media have earned it an Emmy.

Spredfast was honored for its work to improve audience engagement at the Technology and Engineering Emmys ceremony in Las Vegas this month.

The company works closely with a number of TV networks, using Twitter and other forms of social media to get viewer feedback in realtime. On NBC’s “The Voice,” for instance, viewers have been given the power to save contestants from elimination, Spredfast spokeswoman Courtney White said.

“We can take what’s happening on social networks and bring that to other screens,” she said.

One of the primary goals, White said, is to convince more people to watch TV live, instead of recording shows to watch later. Live viewers are exposed to commercials that help keep broadcasters afloat, while viewers watching on a delayed basis via DVRs or other devices can fast-forward right through ads, making them less valuable.

Now, with Spredfast’s technology in place, viewers who rely on their DVRs might miss out on a chance to influence the outcome of their favorite programs.

“We’re making live TV ‘must-watch’ TV again,” White said.

The Emmy was a nice surprise, White said, and prompted a companywide celebration complete with a red carpet. But Spredfast isn’t done innovating just yet, she said.

“You can’t rest on your laurels,” she said. “We’ve got some really exciting things coming up in the next year.”

New game show network on the way

A new over-the-air TV channel is set to hit Austin’s airwaves this summer.

Buzzr TV will run on one of Fox-owned KTBC’s digital subchannels, featuring an assortment of classic game shows.

Programs set to air at launch include “To Tell the Truth,” “Password,” “Match Game,” “Beat the Clock,” “What’s My Line,” “Blockbusters,” “Card Sharks,” the Monty Hall-hosted version of “Let’s Make a Deal” and older episodes of “Family Feud” featuring former hosts Richard Dawson, Ray Combs, Louis Anderson, Richard Karn and John O’Hurley.

FreemantleMedia North America and Debmar Mercury, syndicators of some of TV’s best-known game shows, are the companies behind Buzzr TV. Their initial deal calls for the network to air on Fox-owned stations nationwide, but they anticipate other broadcasters will pick it up, too.

“There is nothing else like Buzzr TV,” Ira Bernstein and Mort Marcus, co-presidents of Debmar-Mercury, said in a written statement.

Buzzr TV will be KTBC’s second subchannel. It already airs Movies!, which features an assortment of classic films.

“Buzzr will be a great addition to our portfolio,” said Frank Cicha, senior vice president of programming for Fox Television Stations. “The possibilities to have fun creatively — and to make it fun for the viewer — are endless.”

Longhorn Network joins DirecTV lineup

DirecTV is the latest carrier to pick up the Austin-based Longhorn Network.

Customers in Texas who have the Choice package or higher can now find it on Channel 677. Outside Texas, subscribers must get DirecTV’s Sports Pack to see LHN.

The deal marks a big win for the network, which is operated by ESPN as part of a 20-year, $300 million contract with the University of Texas. DirecTV had been one of the last big holdouts to pick up LHN, which launched in 2011.

Other carriers that offer LHN include Time Warner Cable, Grande Communications, Google Fiber, AT&T U-verse, Verizon FiOS and Dish Network.

Read my blog at tvradio.blog.austin360.com or follow @gdinges on Twitter to get the latest updates on local radio and TV stations.