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Trevor Doerksen: Technology for multitasking TV viewers

Trevor Doerksen’s Mobovivo’s technology lets viewers watch their favourite television programs while receiving related content on their smartphones and tablets.

Chris Bolin/The Globe and Mail

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In the battle between television and the Internet, Trevor Doerksen has emerged a winner.

The founder and chief executive officer of Calgary-based Mobovivo Inc., recognized early on the powerful pull of smartphones and tablets. So he developed technology that would extend TV programming to these "second screen" devices and, instead of dividing audiences, keep them engaged across various media.

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"We know that something like 86 per cent of people are doing something on their smartphone or tablet while watching TV," says Mr. Doerksen, a former film and TV producer who grew up in Red Deer, Alta., and studied at the University of Calgary. "TV is such a powerful medium, but then you've got mobile, which is an exciting and fast-growing medium. It really becomes a war for that screen real estate."

The spoils in this war? Millions of dollars in advertising revenue that TV networks stand to lose each time their viewers turn their gaze away from the big screen in their living room to the smaller screen in their hand.

With his team of TV producers and software engineers at Mobovivo, Mr. Doerksen created a technology platform that curates and manages various information and social media related to a particular program. The information is then pushed out to viewers through an app on their smartphone or tablet. This technology, which is branded to a specific show or channel, lets program producers and TV audiences connect through a single online destination for social media, chat, games, trivia, statistics and scores – in real time and in sync with the TV show.

For example, while watching a basketball game, viewers with Mobovivo's platform on their tablet or phone can weigh in on who's most likely to score next, or get the life story and statistics of the players on the court. Advertisers, in the meantime, can offer prizes or show an ad based on the preferences viewers clicked in their profile.

To draw more eyeballs to a show, the Mobovivo platform pushes alerts that tell viewers their favourite program is about to start.

"It's all in the service of TV," says Mr. Doerksen, whose company has 20 employees and offices in Toronto, New York, Los Angeles and Sao Paulo, Brazil. "People are looking away from their TV every two to four minutes, and if not's the TV or their mobile device that's getting their attention, then it's going somewhere else and that means money lost."

Mobovivo customers include ESPN, Time Warner Cable and Sony Pictures Entertainment. The company's platform – ranked among the top "TV disruptors" two years ago at MIPTV, an annual conference in Cannes for TV professionals – was used during the broadcast of this year's Academy Awards and will be available to soccer fans this summer for the FIFA World Cup. Mr. Doerksen says about one million people in 18 countries have the Mobovivo platform on their mobile device.

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"We currently power between 20 to 30 hours a week of prime-time programming," he says. "Our target is to hit 150 hours a week by 2017."

Mobovivo makes money from licensing fees (paid by clients such as ESPN) and also from ad revenue. Downloading the app is free, but viewers are exposed to advertising on their mobile device.

With Mobovivo's platform, the very same mobile technologies that have long been viewed as a serious threat to the survival of TV may actually help it thrive, says Mr. Doerksen.

"We are delivering solutions that create a behaviour of usage," he says. "And we're doing that by creating an in-depth experience that allows people to spend more time with the content they love."

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