Summary:

The new “Pick ‘Em” feature from Miso’s social TV app will enable users to share who they think are the most likely contestants in competitive reality series to advance — or to be voted off. Fox has already signed on as a launch partner.

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What’s next in the social TV app space? Tonight in a presentation at the Lean Back meetup in San Francisco, Miso will be demonstrating new features that will be included in the next build of its TV check-in application. The new features, which are focused on competitive reality TV shows like Celebrity Apprentice or So You Think You Can Dance, already have a little validation, as Fox has decided to partner with the app maker.

The new “Pick ‘Em” feature will enable users to share who they think are the most likely contestants in competitive reality series to advance or to be voted off. It creates an easy way for viewers to interact with each other around certain types programming and increase user engagement. Fox has already signed on as a launch partner, and will be adding “Pick ‘Em” options for shows like So You Think You Can Dance and Masterchef.

For Miso, the new feature is a smart bet. After all, competitive reality shows are some of the only programming that viewers tune into live nowadays, or fear being left out of the “watercooler” conversation. Increasingly, though, that conversation is happening not at work, but online during a show’s live broadcast.

“Pick ‘Em” is also a way for Miso to “go beyond the check-in,” something that CEO Somrat Niyogi realizes will be important as Miso seeks to differentiate itself from the growing number of social TV applications using a Foursquare model of check-ins and virtual rewards to get users engaged. But the problem with check-ins when applied to second screen is two-fold, according to Niyogi: For one thing, no one wants to advertise that they are watching hours of TV in a row. Also, with most apps, once users have checked in to a show, they generally close down the apps and put their phones away.

While check-ins are a low barrier to gathering important user viewing data, social TV app makers have realized that they need to find ways to keep their users engaged once the check-in is over. Some, like Yap.TV, have chosen to do this by bringing in real-time streams of Twitter conversations. Others have sought partnerships with content companies to offer additional media files or enhanced experiences to fans of certain shows.

The competitive reality segment is a unique opportunity for Miso, as shows like American Idol and Survivor encourage user engagement that is missing from most scripted programming. With the exception of shows like Glee and Mad Men, most TV-related interactions that happen on social networks like Twitter and Facebook are reserved for live and competitive reality programming.

For now, Miso will be working with partners and updating its own app week-to-week for certain programs, until more networks are on board to control votes on their own shows. Recognizing that its small team can’t meet all user or programmer demands, Miso has opened its API as a way to solicit new and interesting applications that can be built on its platform. That’s already led to some innovation, including one third-party developer which built a Miso application for Windows Phone 7 mobile devices. In the future, Miso hopes its openness will lead cable companies, TV manufacturers and other third-party developers to build new apps.

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