January 11, 2012 – 11:34 am
As the social TV app landscape is starting to get a lot more crowded, entertainment check-in app GetGlue has closed a $12 million round of financing led by Rho Ventures as the company seeks to add more visual features to stay ahead of the competition.
Over the past few months, several social TV app providers have begun gaining attention, including Miso, which recently introduced a feature called SideShows, which allows viewers to fashion themselves as “super-fans” who push out instant notifications with info about actors, quote highlights, products about a given show. In addition, IntoNow, YapTV and Umami are also vying for users and media company’s attention, mostly by offering automatic access features that can “hear” a program through some form of audio fingerprinting.
GetGlue COO Fraser Kelton acknowledged that he’s seen some “clever” applications from the competition. And he noted that GetGlue does have an arrangement for audio identification of shows with DirecTV.
Cutting through noise: But in an interview with TVExchanger, Kelton said that the company would not be rushing to add similar features any time soon, preferring to concentrate on making the conversations that users have after checking into a TV show or other media. For one thing, unlike much of its competition, GetGlue has positioned itself as a more general entertainment social media app, offering check-ins across movies, music, books, sports, etc., though 60 percent of its usage is around TV, Kelton said.
In conjunction with the new funding, which also included previous backers of GetGlue’s November 2010 $6 million round, i.e., TimeWarner, RRE Ventures, and Union Square Ventures, the company had hit two notable milestones: it has now reached 2 million users and has provided an update to its iPhone app. GetGlue also has iPad and Android apps and a mobile WAP site for Blackberry, Windows 7 and other phones, but Apple products are where most of its audience resides so it gets the refurbishing first (revamps for those are planned sometime this quarter).
While the company didn’t add as many bells and whistles as its competition has, GetGlue is mindful that users want more visuals. Later in the year, Kelton said, the company will begin including more rich media within the app, but for now, the new Conversations tab will allow for larger images from a given show and allow users to superimpose quotes and comments above them.
Secondly, GetGlue is promising more personalization and customization for both users and the growing list of 75 TV networks and 30 media companies it has formal deals with.
So how come it has so little interest in adding more audio fingerprinting and automatic functions to its app? Mainly because GetGlue believes that its growth lies in helping keep the conversations going longer and allowing users to filter out the social media noise than can accumulate when an app has a growing audience of 2 million users.
For example, typically, a popular show, like AMC’s Walking Dead can attract 40- to 50,000 check-ins, Kelton said. In addition, the company claims that check-ins grew 1000 percent and crossed 100 million for 2011. Making sure that a user gets the comments from people they want to hear from is what GetGlue’s engineers are interested in managing, as opposed to having everyone talking at once.
“While we all know that people are using their mobile devices as they watch TV, we also know that they don’t want any distractions during a show they’re intently watching,” Kelton said. “’It seems like a contradiction, but it really isn’t. People may want to push stuff out, say by quoting a line of dialogue, or noting a piece of action. But they really don’t want to talk to someone else until after. And they only want to talk to a select group of fellow viewers. ‘Identification and verification,’ which is what these audio identifier systems do, is a service layer for people to consume during a show. And those systems do reduce the friction of checking-in, but that’s not what keeps people around. As I say, we’re focused on the longer conversation after it airs and that’s what’s important in this kind of service to both users and marketers.”
Going slow on marketing: Still, Kelton said that the company plans to go slow on the marketing side of the business, aware that users’ tolerance for marketing on mobile apps remains pretty low. He did point to GetGlue’s softer selling approach that the company wants to build on.
“When TheGap offers a 40 percent discount to someone after checking in to a show, that’s a much different proposition from just showing a banner ad, which I might add is the kind of format we’re not interested in,” Kelton said. “Or, if a viewer checks-in regularly to HBO’s True Blood and they are offered a discount on buying the box set, it’s probably a marketing message that people would be receptive to. So we’re looking more deeply at those kinds of ways of connecting users and brands in a way that just feels like a natural part of the conversation, since it’s based on an expressed interest or it provides something of value beyond ‘buy this because this ad looks good.’”
Having a growing base of 2 million users and the ability to draw 40-50k check-ins for popular shows also means something else to marketers: real-time data. Kelton didn’t go into details, but he did say that the company is looking for ways to build out some form of audience measurement functions for media companies and markets.
“We are not interested in one-to-one targeting, this would only involve anonymous data,” Kelton said, knowing how fraught privacy issues are these days. “But when you have 50k people checking-in to a show, think about it: that’s practically 10 times Nielsen’s audience panel. So we think we can gain a lot of insights there that might be valuable to marketers.”
By David Kaplan
January 11, 2012 – 11:34 am