ABC announced today it would offer online text commentary tracks for full episodes of some of its programs. The first commentary is for the new V sci-fi remake with participation from executive producers Scott Peters and Steve Pearlman. It’s due to hit ABC.com Saturday, a delayed release after the first episode of the show aired on TV last night. Further, ABC is enabling fans to create their own commentary tracks using the same tools.
The use of the term “commentary tracks” might be a little misleading given the audio overlay tracks we’ve all come to expect on DVDs, with inside info from actors, producers, directors and the like. ABC.com’s new feature consists of text comments only.
Though I’ve only seen a screenshot, this looks to be a very cool variation on the concept of Social TV. Users log in to their Facebook accounts remotely and watch an episode. They make comments that are time-stamped and run alongside the ABC video player. Fans can do the same thing, starting a new and separate episode commentary track. Each track is released to the public but only the author’s Facebook friends can modify it with additional comments.
ABC said it expects to soon roll out commentary track functionality for other series that use its full episode player powered by Move Networks. Featured commenters will include writers, directors, costume designers and other experts from each show.
While ABC had in the past locked up its full episodes to viewers on its own site, this season it’s also hosting them on Hulu. However, this new feature is exactly the right way to entice people come to your destination: give them a social experience and extra content they can’t get anywhere else. The web offers an awesome opportunity to bring DVD extra-type content to life. It would be great to see ABC run these commentaries live, a la Fox’s “Tweet-peats,” in which that network overlaid comments from stars and fans on top of a rerun on TV. Text comments crowding out the screen may not have been quite right for the living room, but it could be fantastic on the PC.
Other similar projects include ClipSync, View2Gether, Vidrollr, tvChatter, Cliqset, MediaFriends and the many other implementations of Facebook (and now Twitter) alongside video and on TV screens. Today, implementations of Facebook Connect are leading the pack, but there’s a lot of work yet to be done to make social TV a great experience.