It’s no secret Americans watch a lot of television – 35.6 hours a week on average, by Nielsen's estimate. So it should come as no surprise that a handful of start-ups have emerged to channel TV viewing behavior.
Platforms like GetGlue, Philo, and Miso give users enhanced interaction with their favorite shows, enabling networks to reward loyal viewers and encourage live viewing. After a series of fundings and partnerships, the space appears poised for a big year.
Social TV is a more nuanced version of broad-based social networks: Users check in to TV shows (or other forms of entertainment) and are rewarded with badges or points. In some cases, they earn real-world rewards like coupons or sweepstakes.
GetGlue is arguably the 800-pound gorilla in this burgeoning space. Founded in 2007, it has raised $12 million from investors like Union Square Ventures, RRE Ventures and Time Warner Investments. It has 800,000 registered users and nearly 30,000 followers on Twitter. It also has a big lead in partners, having worked with 36 TV networks and film studios including HBO and Discovery.
But there are Davids to its Goliath. Philo, founded in 2009 and backed by North Bridge Venture Partners and DFJ Gotham, has "tens of thousands" of registered users, according to CEO David Levy. Miso, founded in 2010, just closed a $1.5-million Series A round from Google Ventures and Hearst Interactive Media and has nearly 100,000 registered users as well as a new partnership with Oprah Winfrey’s new network, OWN.
|Funding To Date||$12M||$1.5M+||Early stage, undisclosed|
|Investors||Union Square, RRE, Time Warner||Google Ventures, Hearst Interactive Media||North Bridge Venture Partners, DFJ Gotham|
|Number of Registered Users||800,000||Approaching 100,000||"Tens of Thousands"|
|Twitter Followers||Nearly 30,000||Nearly 6000||Nearly 600|
|Recent News||Coupon for Bob's Burgers on Fox||Deal with OWN||You Again promo deal|
Executives and investors say TV-focused status updates are a natural evolution that began with broad-based social networks. Joe Kraus, a partner at Google Ventures and a director on Miso's board, suggests the interrelation of the Web, social media, and TV has been accelerating for some time. "People are already tying what they look at on this second screen with what's happening on the television," he says. "The company does not have to create the habit, they merely have to co-opt it."
The above platforms appeal to the competitive nature of users by offering points and badges, even though the rewards are essentially meaningless.
Miso's founders haven't figured out what its point system even means yet – and users don't mind, Niyogi says. "People don’t really care right now as I understand it," he says.
But the check-in and point/badge systems are merely the tip of the iceberg.
Niyogi says the check-in is an early requirement because the application is not directly connected to the TV and does not know what users are watching. He envisions a future in which Miso users can look up TV shows and engage with other users. In fact, the proceeds from Miso’s latest round will be used in part to hire engineers and experiment with features.
"No one has figured it out in this space," Niyogi says. "The check-in is not it."
Not to be outdone, GetGlue recently partnered with Fox and Fatburger to promote Fox's new series, Bob's Burgers. Users who checked in to the live premiere on Sunday received an exclusive Fatburger sticker that included a printable coupon that could be redeemed for a free burger. The company also has a deal with Showtime to offer a chance to win free DVDs for shows like Dexter, the Big C and the United States of Tara.
And Philo will have a new iPhone app and functions such as asynchronous interaction.
Networks are taking notice. Sabrina Caluori, director of social media and marketing at HBO, says stickers helped encourage live-viewing of new series Boardwalk Empire.
"We developed a collection of 12 stickers that were awarded to users consecutively,” Caluori says. "If you missed one, you were unable to complete your collection and win the special 'Boss' sticker during the finale."
Jesse Redniss, VP of digital at NBC and USA Network, says USA launched check-ins with Psych and Burn Notice because the shows were in-season and because they have strong social presences – Psych has 1.5 million Facebook fans; Burn Notice has 1.6 million – as well as "a little bit younger skewing demographic."
Claire Alexander, VP of digital strategy, development and social media at Discovery Communications, echoes this sentiment about check-ins and MythBusters' socially savvy audience. (That would be 3.4 million Facebook fans and 383,000 Twitter followers.)
Google’s Kraus says advertisers are also looking to increase engagement and are, "very experimentally, viewing the second screen as an interesting tie-in opportunity."
That’s what Starcom USA, a media agency supporting the Touchstone Pictures comedy You Again, did to promote the film. Viewers who tuned in to shows carrying promotional spots for the movie and who checked in via Philo had a chance to win real and virtual prizes.
“[Social TV platforms are] yet another conduit by which brands, networks and sponsors can reach viewers in a contextually relevant time in a hyper-targeted way,” Levy says. “The context is relevant. They know what they're watching, they know the demographic and they know each individual user because in general, they’re connecting [to Facebook and Twitter].”
This story has been updated with information about GetGlue's partners.
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March 19, 2014