This weekend Jacked.com is launching the first stages of its service. The easiest way to describe it is like a souped-up Netvibes you can use as a reference while watching live television programming. The service is rolling out its features slowly, beginning with a partnership with Notre Dame and NBC Sports to serve up real-time content for Notre Dame's football season which starts on Saturday. NBC is billing the service as "Play Action." You can visit the site now, but there won't be anything on it until game day.
Jacked is linked up to what you're watching on TV, so say you're watching the game, and a player scores. Jacked's smattering of Web widgets will pull up the player's stats, photos, related news stories, a comparison chart of that play to others, etc. The idea is to save you from having to track down player, team, and historical information on your own, and serving it up automatically.
The widgets are powered by a group of underlying technologies that scan through live TV content and grab bits and pieces of information from its metadata. Combine that with things like optical character recognition, and you've got lots of information to work with. The result is an impressive array of widgets, that--when viewed during a live broadcast--will pull up information and related content seconds after it happens.
As opposed to the market of people that use services like MLB.com's MLB.tv, and listen to live streaming broadcasts of games, Jacked is going for the people who are already watching the game on a TV, while surfing the Web--a segment the company has researched to be just above 100 million people in the U.S. Jacked's founder Bryan Biniak explained the roots of the idea to me where he witnessed a conversation between a few people in a dorm room that were using either their cell phones or computers, while watching TV at the same time. At various points in the conversation, the participants would cross check TV happenings with Google, or look up actors on IMDB, etc.
For the rest of us, who may just enjoy one screen, Biniak's idea is to help us escape the onslaught of flashy distractions that show up in regular TV programming--the swooping overlays with sound effects, and moving graphics that take up an unnecessary amount of space in sports games and other live TV events. Biniak's take is that the end user should have control of those information overlays, which is where the idea for Jacked was born.
While the service is rolling out with just Notre Dame, more content partnerships are in the works. The service is starting out small with football games from the NFL and NCAA. With NBA, NCAA Basketball and NHL later on down the road.
Jacked's roadmap is similar to what Netvibes and Pageflakes are currently offering. Users will eventually be able to create their own widgets, and custom "Webtops" that they'll be able to save and share with others as part of an integrated social network.
Eventually Jacked plans to link up to your local programming schedule. At that point you'll be able to tell it what you're watching and be served up with a desktop full of contextually relevant widgets. Besides sports, there's obviously some traction for live political events, and news broadcasts, since some of the widgets might provide more context. For things like movies and sitcoms, however, I can see it being more of a distraction.