Here's the scoop from NewTeeVee:
Launching today, MTV’s Backchannel is a very cool-looking social game synergizing a very silly product— specifically, the network’s “reality” show The Hills. As the title suggests, Backchannel’s a chat interface that runs live online while a Hills episode airs on TV; players quickly post their witty commentary and smacktalk into a shared chat window as the show progresses. (Sounds like playing a multiplayer game of Halo, where the targets are ditzy chicks, and the weapon of choice is snark.)
Of course, a lot of people already group chat about TV shows in standard instant messaging software, but here’s the cool twist:
Players get to rate other’s comments, with the highest-rated lines moving up the screen, while the least favored disappear. Players get points for good ratings, with the quickest wits ascending atop the site’s leaderboard. (I wouldn’t be surprised if the very best Backchannel players become almost as popular as The Hill’s actual stars.)This is brilliant--taking advantage of the medium to make broadcasts interactive. It's this kind of interactivity that makes Ustream so addictive.
Now if MTV really had balls, it would figure broadcast "The Hills" with the live Backchannel feed as well!