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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