As DVR usage increasingly moves “must see TV” to “must see but perhaps later, or when it’s more convenient for me TV,” the emergence of new second screen companion apps could be a way to bring ‘live’ back to the viewing experience.

NBC’s recently launched NBC Live app is one approach to bringing the water cooler to the digital age. According to NBC:

Don’t just watch TV, interact with TV! Welcome to NBC Live, the most fun you can have while watching your favorite NBC shows. Talk with fellow fans, enjoy trivia and polls, and even interact with NBC stars on your iPad while watching on your TV set.

Unlike some of the cable-based apps that have recently run into contractual problems with their live streaming, NBC’s taking the approach of building community and focusing on engagement.  What’s particularly intriguing is the emphasis on content-programming synchronization, providing content tied to what viewers are watching at the time.  With more people having and using second screen devices (smartphones, tablets and laptops) while they’re watching the tube, NBC’s smart to latch on to this behavior.

It will be interesting to see whether the networks prove successful with these network-based companion apps, or whether show-specific ones gain steam.  Possibly, third party developed apps that focus in the sector could become popular, though such independent projects also risk running afoul of infringement issues.

Regardless, the view is that viewer focus is divided between screens so content producers might as well work to win both screens.  Whether they look to monetize these growing audiences and how is still to be seen.