TV is an inherently social experience. Long before the Internet and cell phones, there were still viewing parties and conversations around the water cooler at work the next day. As technology progressed, we started texting during shows and liking them on Facebook. Now there are new applications taking social TV to the next level for this fall season by repurposing the Foursquare location check-in concept for entertainment. Viewers can check in to TV shows just like checking in to physical locations. Let’s take a look at the main services out there and how TV networks are using them.
What Services Are Out There?
The apps getting the most buzz are GetGlue, Miso and Philo. Miso and Philo are for movies and TV, but GetGlue also covers other forms of entertainment such as books, video games and wines. All three connect with Facebook and Twitter to leverage their much larger networks. GetGlue was launched almost a year ago as a browser-based recommendation engine, but it wasn’t until June that the iPhone app came out, and now there are Droid and iPad versions, too. Users check in to earn stickers, and during the month of June, 550,000 users accounted for 5 million check-ins and ratings. GetGlue also offers value beyond just social: it gives Amazon-like personalized recommendations based on past check-ins.
Miso is a Bazaar Labs app that focuses specifically on TV and movies, and rewards are in the form of badges. Viewers ultimately achieve Fan Club admittance that unlocks exclusive show content. Users can comment on and like other people’s check-ins, as well as designate which shows are their favorites. A trending feature shows what shows are currently getting the most check-ins. As with GetGlue, there are iPhone, Droid and iPad versions.
Philo’s main differentiator is that it’s specific to live TV check-ins, so it has great value to networks to see minute-by-minute engagement. Users achieve credits by checking in to shows via a TV Guide-like layout and climbing the Hollywood ladder to ultimately achieve Executive Producer status. Awards are given along the way, and users can interact with others in real time. Even without checking in, this app is very useful for seeing what’s on TV. Unfortunately for Droid users, it’s only available for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.
Other apps to watch: TV.com Relay is CBS’s live TV check-in service that had 100,000 users in late August just a few weeks after its launch, thanks to TV.com’s established audience. It rewards with badges and allows real-time commenting. Comcast’s Tunerfish is another app that asks the question “What are you watching?” similar to Facebook status update prompting. Tunerfish is unique in that there are referral rewards if someone clicks a link to a show that you’ve shared.
How Are Networks Using Them?
Fox is using GetGlue to recommend new fall shows to viewers of similar returning shows: “Glee” viewers who check in will be told about the new comedy “Raising Hope,” while “Bones” viewers will be alerted about the new drama “Lone Star.” HBO is also using GetGlue to reward viewers of the new series “Boardwalk Empire” with a special sticker if episodes are watched on the night it airs.
WE partnered with Miso to create a social experience around “Bridezillas,” customizing badges such as “Cake Smasher” and “Veil Thrasher” to play on the high-strung personalities of the featured brides. NBC made the Primetime Emmy® Awards more social with Philo by rewarding Live from the Red Carpet viewers with The Fashion Police award. Additionally, there was a contest to win $1,000 if Jimmy Fallon read on-air a joke submitted through Philo’s commenting feature. Philo has also partnered with IGN to host interactive virtual viewing parties with a chance to win not only virtual prizes, but also physical ones such as an Xbox.
So Will It Stick?
The main barrier is that not enough people are using these apps yet, so there is little peer reinforcement to continue to check in. Mainstream TV fans may stay content liking shows and posting comments on Facebook. But for avid TV fans, these services take fandom to a loyalty and social connectivity level that Facebook and Twitter can’t compete with…unless, of course, Facebook releases a repurposed Facebook Places for entertainment. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out this fall, and which networks and services can most effectively leverage the capability to engage viewers and, ultimately, increase ratings.