Comcast is getting Twitch-y, starting with tonight’s episode of Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City.”
The cable operator is launching Watchwith, an interactive live-streaming app for Xfinity X1 and Flex customers that lets viewers engage with the programming using their remote controls. It’s akin to social live-streaming platforms like Amazon’s Twitch, but Watchwitch is available only on Comcast TV set-tops.
First up in the Watchwith app is a half-hour pre-show for “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City.” At 6:30 p.m. PT/9:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Comcast customers can tune in to the exclusive live stream on X1 and Flex to interact with all six cast members of the reality show franchise’s latest expansion, its first since 2016.
Once the pre-show starts, X1 and Flex customers can submit comments and questions via Twitter (using the hashtag #RHOSLC) for the “Housewives” cast to respond to and may see their tweets scroll across the screen. In addition, there’s the Sneak Peek Meter, a polling feature that fans will be encouraged to click on — and once a certain threshold of clicks is hit, that will unlock never-before-seen clips from “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City.”
“We hope for and anticipate some real button-mashing on the Sneak Peak Meter,” said Zane Vella, VP of product in Comcast Cable’s Technology, Product and Experience group.
The pre-show event, hosted by Bravo’s Daryn Carp, marks the first time a network has produced an interactive live-stream experience around their content directly on TVs, according to Comcast. “The really exciting the thing about this show is that it’s providing meaningful interaction with the audience. The technology can really change the outcome of the programming in real time,” Vella said.
Bravo’s pre-show in Watchwith is “our maiden voyage for this,” Vella said. The NBCUniversal network is a corporate cousin within the Comcast family, but Vella said Comcast is eager to work with any programming partner on similar interactive live TV events — with the key benefit being that they can drive X1 and Flex viewers to tune in to their featured show, right from their set-tops.
For East Coast viewers, the “Real Housewives of Salt Lake City” pre-show will immediately lead into a new episode of the series at 10 p.m. ET on Bravo. To tune in, X1 customers can say “Bravo” into the Xfinity Voice Remote. The pre-show also will be available to watch on-demand via the Watchwith app on X1 and Flex (without the live interactive features).
“Bravo is thrilled to be the first network ever to combine interactive live-streaming and a primetime broadcast, directly on TV through Xfinity X1 and Flex,” said Maria Laino DeLuca, SVP of consumer and social marketing for Bravo and Universal Kids. “Watchwith gives us an innovative, new way to connect with our audience and drive tune-in simultaneously.”
One downside of the Watchwith interactive streaming app is that it’s limited to Comcast customers with X1 service or Flex, the over-the-top streaming box available to broadband-only subs. Down the line, Comcast could potentially open Watchwith to third-party streaming platforms, Vella said. But for now, “we’re interested in how to dovetail the internet streaming experience and linear TV experience together,” he said.
“We’re in a world now where networks are actively going out and getting their talent to do live-stream events to generate visibility,” Vella said. Comcast’s Watchwith provides “that same kind of way to connect with audiences right on the platform — it’s part of the set-top box.”
Comcast bought Watchwith, a San Francisco startup founded by Vella that developed a video metadata platform, in December 2016.
The first major Watchwith project at the cable company was bringing audience voting to NBC’s “The Voice” on X1 back in 2017. Last year, Comcast used Watchwith for an Xfinity TV polling feature tied to the final season of “Game of Thrones” that let customers vote for the character they thought would take the throne. The company also has used the tech to provide contextual ticketing integrations with Fandango and Ticketmaster.