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Summary:

CBS is introducing a new service called TV.com Relay that will enable users to share what they’re watching and collect virtual rewards. CBS will push the app through on-air promotions, which could be a huge advantage over other social TV apps like Miso, Philo and Tunerfish.

tv.com relay

Social TV is all the rage these days, with startups like Bazaar Labs and Philo pushing apps that allow Foursquare-like check in functionality and virtual rewards while letting users tell their friends what they’re watching. Even Comcast has gotten in on the trend, with a skunkworks project called Tunerfish that’s launched its own social check in service.

Now CBS is jumping on the bandwagon, with the introduction of a social TV service called TV.com Relay that will leverage its digital assets to enable users to share what they’re watching and collect virtual rewards. But that’s not all — CBS plans to use its traditional broadcast properties to push awareness of TV.com Relay, with on-air promotion of the app during primetime programming.

That will be a huge advantage over many of the other players in the social TV market, many of which are startups that are striking individual deals with different programmers. Even Tunerfish, which gets some help from being built within Comcast, is run independently of the larger cable group and thus is more or less on its own when approaching cable networks to create promotions.

Another key differentiator is that TV.com Relay is only about TV shows. The app will leverage all the data that TV.com has accrued over the past several years, which includes detailed information for all TV programming since 1953. While the other social viewing apps allow users to “check in” to TV programming and web video, CBS Interactive general manager Anthony Soohoo said in a phone interview that its app will be limited to just shows that appear on cable and broadcast TV networks. “You won’t be able to check in to ‘dog on a skateboard,” he said.

While TV.com Relay is a CBS product, Soohoo said that the company will be agnostic about which shows it will push. In its first iteration, CBS will be focused on just getting users to check in to what they’re watching, and recommendations will be based on friends’ viewing and the social graph. But Soohoo sees the opportunity for adding new features, like games related to different programs, as time goes on.

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  1. When will all of these apps start moving to the automated check-in model option with a whitelist and blacklist feature? I fully understand the concept of the check in and how it is a way to let your friends know what you are doing right now, but having to check in before everything that you do and before every show you watch on television just will not work well using a permission based model. If I watch television for 3 hours, I typically watch at least 4 to 6 shows and then portions of maybe another 5 shows that I see while I channel surf. I don’t want to check in to 11 shows over a three hour period. Instead, I would much rather check in once and then have the app remember the shows that I check in to and add them to my so called whitelist. So long as I am logged in to the app, every time I am watching that particular show it will show that I am checked in to it automatically. That is where I predict things will go in the future with social tv. It is where it needs to go for it to be successful.

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  2. [...] The social TV space is becoming increasingly crowded, with startups like Philo and GetGlue releasing apps that offer the same types of check-in functionality and virtual rewards. Large distributors and programmers are also getting into the game, with Comcast releasing a social app called Tunerfish and CBS is tying its efforts to its TV.com property with a social TV app of its own. [...]

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  3. I have played around with Relay and it’s awesome. The badges have really clever blurbs. Now to get more of my contacts involved…

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  4. Just checked out the Relay app. Seems pretty easy to use and I’m liking the chat function. No more im-ing friends while watching tv simultaneously.

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  5. Tried out Miso & Relay. I think once Relay gets twitter integration, it’ll be a contender

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  6. [...] that video wants to be social, a thesis that is being proven out not just by the growth in the number of social TV apps that have come to market over the past several months, but also through the rapid adoption of video [...]

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  7. [...] in” to their favorite programs and share their viewing habits with friends. CBS is even rolling out its own social TV app, called TV.com Relay, which it plans to promote through on-air [...]

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  8. Try FanTalkTV, which recently went live. It’s web-based, so it’s easier to use for chatting live about television than mobile apps are. You can also join or create custom rooms about shows and connect with like-minded fans, rather than be limited to a generic check-in.

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