What Twitter’s Latest Move Means For Other Social TV Players

As social TV emerges as something beyond an experiment for advertisers and TV networks, Twitter is eager to take a bigger role in connecting brands and viewers. That could present a challenge to early social entertainment services like GetGlue and IntoNow, especially as other startups emerge, such as today’s launch of social TV app Umami and established apps like Shazam bring more e-commerce to TV promotions.
In a post on Twitter’s official blog, the company details new relationship with Mass Relevance, which singles out the most relevant tweets for its brand clients, and buzz measurement provider Crimson Hexagon.
Both Mass Relevance and Crimson Hexagon can bring existing partnerships with media companies to the table. Mass Relevance, for example, recently agreed to power the Twitter integration in NBC’s The Voice, while Crimson Hexagon provided “Twitter analysis” in CNN’s 2010 election coverage and Barack Obama’s first State of the Union address.
Earlier today, it was announced that Shazam for TV will be featured during the second season of the USA Network’s spy drama series Covert Affairs. By “Shazaming” at any point during the show, USA fans will unlock video and photos from Globe Tracker, a multi-media gallery of on-location content shot by the show’s main actor, Christopher Gorham.
With the launch of the new series, Shazam is also introducing a new feature in its app, which allows fans to buy merchandise from a show. As part of a new partnership with Delivery Agent, which manages e-commerce functions for NBC (NSDQ: CMCSA) programming and 40 other entertainment companies, Shazam can provide viewers with a single-button purchase experience to buy fashion brands seen in the show or fan gear from the show.
In the meantime, GetGlue, one of the earliest services to bring the Foursquare-like experience of checking into a shop or restaurant to TV, has been aggressively courting marketers and networks with the beta launch of GetGlue Business, a self-serve marketing dashboard that allows TV, movie and music companies to create more enticements for consumers-such as deals on merchandise. (GetGlue is more than just TV, as it also provides check-ins for movies, music listening and events.)
In addition, Yahoo’s IntoNow has been also striking deals with shows like Project Runway for its check-in service.
The latest entrant into the social TV space is an iPad app, available starting today in the iTunes Store, called Umami, which uses audio fingerprinting technology to automatically and continuously sync to live and time-shifted programming from 40 major broadcast and cable networks. But instead of just checking in, the app offers an array of info related to the show being viewed, including bios, photos, news and conversation.
There is a tremendous amount of research available now about the amount of “multitasking” going on by TV watchers, especially younger ones. But how engaged are they? And do viewers who are hooked on a particular show want to pay more attention to their iPad or their smartphone instead of the actual program?
“Except for diehard enthusiasts of specific shows, most consumers aren’t going to download an app for each of their dozen favorite programs; like their remote or their electronic program guide, they’re going to want a place where they can get interactive experiences. This creates the opportunity for independents like us,” says Scott Rosenberg, Umami’s CEO.
As Umami was getting started, Rosenberg surveyed the social TV space and identified three categories:
1) Network-initiated: apps built by the TV networks themselves, generally for a single show, since most viewers tend to be fans of programs, not content companies. The HBO Go and Bravo Now apps are obvious exceptions.
2) Check-in plays: low on content, generally focused on conversation and game mechanics
3) Guidance plays: focused on recommending programming to consumers across multiple platforms, based on algorithms and social cues
All of these areas have definite promise. The long-term challenge is to resist the temptation to be the “one and only app users will ever need.” The short-term challenge is to prove to advertisers and networks that social TV can deliver on creating a substantive connection between audiences and networks and advertisers.
“Despite all the hoopla around the second screen and social TV, this is not a land grab — consumers’ multi-screen behavior is still rapidly evolving, and it’ll take years, along with a lot of technology and handholding, for networks to start truly taking advantage of that behavior,” Rosenberg said. “The prize will go to the player/players who can supply the right enabling technology, are very service-oriented toward the nets, and have a platform and economic model that makes it easy for networks and advertisers to activate two-screen experiences.”
Whether that player is Umami, GetGlue, IntoNow — or Twitter and Facebook on their own — is the question that will be answered over the next year.