frog design, the design firm with 40 years of experience advising clients on how best to create their consumer electronics and services, from Windows XP to Roku to TV Guide’s new web site, recently began making a few products of its own. Among the first is a social TV iPhone app called tvChatter, meant to be used alongside watching programs live or simultaneously with friends.
The free application will come out with frog client NBC (s GE) as a launch partner as soon as Apple (s AAPL) approves it (probably in the next week or so). It brings in a stream of Twitter updates that are deemed relevant to about 30 prime-time shows from various networks. When users give their Twitter credentials, they can tweet directly to a stream and follow along with either their friends or everyone else in the world watching the same show and tweeting about it.
I like that tvChatter fits into the common situation of sitting on a couch, watching TV while noodling around on your iPhone. And the urge to get social and interact around content is certainly making itself evident these days. frog also makes tvChatter lightweight by not having its own registration system, instead tying neatly into accounts on everyone’s favorite quippy comment service, Twitter.
On the TV network side, inspiring people to watch television in real time means they get maximum measurement, buzz and ad dollar value from their audience. And it’s only a short (and possibly sponsored) hop over to an official web site via mobile browser to get more information about a show and interact further.
On the downside, this app is incredibly spoiler-prone. For those of us on the West Coast, especially watchers who tend towards elimination reality shows or suspenseful dramas, social media is the enemy until you’ve actually watched the show. For now, frog does try to cut down tweets from previous airings in other time zones, and says that eventually the app might be location-sensitive.
Another potential casualty of the app is the quality of users’ tweet streams. Your Twitter followers who don’t care about the show you’re watching with tvChatter might be a little peeved about the influx of pollution in your stream. But then again, they might just be tempted to come join you.