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Orange has launched a TV-enhancing iPhone app that is synchronised to 25 Freeview channels. The operator hopes it will keep the fiddling-generation focused on big screen content while catching their straying eyeballs where necessary.

The app is called TV Check and uses the iPhone's camera to work out which channel you're watching, after which it can tweet that information to the world while offering "value-added content" pertinent to the show being watched. The point is to keep idle hands busy during the show, and provide an opportunity for advertisers whose on-screen message is so often being ignored these days.

The app is already available in France where Orange has signed deals with various reality/talent shows for additional content. No UK shows have signed up yet, but that's a chicken-and-egg problem which Orange believes social media can solve.

By linking into Facebook and Twitter, the app reckons it can reignite the social aspect of watching TV, which has so often vanished when the family are all too engrossed in their own screens to see what's happening on the big box in the corner. The app promises quizzes and games, which can always be provided by Orange if the programmes don't want to play, but it’s the social aspect that is being emphasised.

Orange is far from the first to try and grab wandering eyes. In the US ABC and FOX have created iPad applications for their shows, Grey's Anatomy and Bones respectively, which offer a load of additional content including live quizzes and interactive adverts – all synchronised to the broadcast.

Both those apps work on recorded shows as well as live, one using the Nielson-embedded audio watermark and the other listening and guessing, which is great for those time-shifting but reduces the social element.

It's no coincidence that the deals in France are with talent shows, which don't get time-shifted as often and lend themselves to diverted-attention viewing. It's tempting to believe that UK producers will be too arrogant to allow Orange to own the additional-screen platform – they might prefer to create their own apps – but if Orange can snag some UK media deals then it could become the default home for such things. ®

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