Samsung Holds Contest to Encourage Development of Interactive TV Apps for its Connected-TV Devices

--Launches Free, Exclusive "ESPN Next Level" App, Reveals Plans to Launch 3D Movie Trailer App

Samsung Electronics America on Wednesday launched the "Free the TV Challenge," a competition which it says will award $500,000 in prizes and is designed to encourage development of innovative interactive TV applications for connected TV's, Blu-ray players and Blu-ray home theater systems. The company also announced Wednesday that the number of applications available through its Samsung Apps store has more than doubled since the latter's launch five months ago, and that the store now offers apps in five categories: video, gaming, social media, sports and kids. Among other offerings, the company said, the store contains apps from ESPN and Hulu (for the latter's new premium service, Hulu Plus) that are currently exclusive to Samsung, and will shortly offer a 3D VOD app for viewing trailers of 3D movies. According to Samsung, Samsung Apps supports common Web standards such as Javascript and XML, as well as Adobe Flash Lite 3.1, and uses a single SDK for apps that run across all supported devices. "We are thrilled that content owners continue to embrace Samsung Apps and that we have doubled the number of applications available to owners of Samsung 2010 connected TV's and Blu-ray devices," Eric Anderson, Samsung Electronics America's VP of content and product solutions, said in a prepared statement. "The Free the TV Challenge will continue that momentum by opening up these TV's to even more developers across the US who want to distribute their content on the biggest screen in the home. People want a connected entertainment experience with their devices and we encourage developers to free the TV by bringing new concepts, as well as existing apps from many platforms, to the TV."

Samsung is inviting developers to visit a dedicated Web site, http://www.freethetvchallenge.com, to register for the contest. In order to be eligible to participate in the contest, developers must reside in the US and must submit their app, together with a video that demonstrates how it works, to Samsung by November 11th. The contest is being administered by Challenge Post and entries will be judged by Roelof Botha of Sequoia, Mike Maples of Floodgate, Bob Borchers of Opus Capital, and Jeremy Levine of Bessemer. Entries will be judged on the quality of the idea that underlies them, their functional implementation and their visual appeal, Samsung says. The contest will also feature a "People's Choice Award," in which consumers will cast votes online. The winner of the contest will be announced at CES in January, and Samsung says that it will make available in Samsung Apps "select applications" generated by the contest. In order to support developers interested in entering the contest, Samsung is launching a series of Free the TV Developer Days, where it says developers will receive hands-on demos of the Samsung Apps platform and a tutorial on the Samsung SDK, and will also be able to participate in a Q&A session with Samsung engineers: the first Developer Day is scheduled for August 31st, and will take place at the Fairmont Hotel in San Jose, CA. It will be keynoted by Pandora founder, Tim Westergren.

Samsung says that it expanded Samsung Apps' line-up Wednesday with various free apps, as well as with premium apps that offer a range of sports, casual gaming, weather and family-oriented content. Among the new offerings is the free ESPN Next Level app, which is exclusive to Samsung: according to the company, the app contains four main sections that respectively allow viewers to access in-depth information on sports events and players in the news; predictive picks of the day's games across all major sports; data and analysis from the ESPN Research team; and insights on statistics from Peter Keating, senior writer at ESPN: The Magazine. In addition, Samsung says, an ESPN ScoreCenter app--based on the mobile app of the same name--will launch in Samsung Apps in the fall. Samsung's other content partners for Samsung Apps include Blockbuster, Facebook, Google, Netflix, Pandora, Twitter, USA Today and Vudu.

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