Waze arms TV stations with crowdsourced traffic data

Waze, a crowdsourced traffic data app, had its big coming-out moment during LA’s “Carmageddon,” a weekend-long closure of one the city’s busiest freeways in July. The startup partnered with the local ABC (s DIS) affiliate and provided critical data about actual traffic patterns, even on surface streets.

The partnership proved beneficial for both parties, helping Waze boost its LA community by 70 percent in one week while providing ABC7 with fresh data and a way to engage app-savvy users. Now Waze is formally opening up a broadcast partner program to replicate that relationship and offer its services to TV stations around the country. It is launching with 12 partners, including stations in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Dallas and Philadelphia.

Waze, which has zoomed to 9 million users from 2.2 million a year ago, lets users share their anonymous traffic data with the service, so the entire community can benefit by seeing the overall traffic patterns in their area. Now, with the new broadcast partner program, TV stations can tap into this data and present it on air using an iPad (s AAPL) version of the app. Instead of just providing information from sensors or cameras, which monitor mostly freeways, Waze data shows how people are moving on regular streets too.

Waze partners will be able to set up branded commuter groups within the app, and they will ultimately be able to turn to dedicated users to get insight about actual traffic conditions. In LA, for example, the ABC7 Traffic Spotters group has about 3,400 active members among the 450,000 Waze users in LA, who contribute for a chance to have their report shown live on TV.

Di-Ann Eisnor, the VP of partnerships and platforms for Waze, said the partner program is a validation of the importance of crowdsourced reporting and shows how broadcasters and social services can engage in a mutually beneficial relationship. Just as broadcasters have turned to social channels like Twitter and Facebook to both push out information and pull in data, Waze is hoping to become a trusted tool for broadcasters to engage their users.

“It was the Carmageddon moment where we realized that broadcast stations want to use us,” Eisnor told me. “Broadcast stations are getting social and this is an interesting case of how can they can use social not just for real time feedback from the road but for audience engagement.”

Eisnor declined to share any financial details about the partnerships, saying it is primarily a distribution agreement. She said Waze can see a doubling or tripling of users in an area when a station starts using Waze. Stations can get up and running on Waze in one or two weeks, she said. Waze recently raised $30 million in funding.

I think partnerships like this will increasingly be an option for TV stations. There is only so much they can do on dwindling budgets, but by turning on deals like this, they can get great real-time data and a chance to deepen their relationship with users.