Blog Post

How big data could change what you watch on TV

Los Angeles–based startup What’s Watched aggregates data from social media and mobile applications to provide media companies with a view into what shows are being watched and who’s watching them. That data can then be used to target specific demographics of users to increase ratings and grow their audiences.

In addition to publicly available data from Netflix, (s NFLX) iTunes (s AAPL) Twitter and Rotten Tomatoes’ Flixster app, (s TWX) What’s Watched incorporates data from some apps that it has built. They include social TV app ScreenTribe, Facebook for iPad app Friended and TV guide app Zap2it, which it developed in conjunction with Tribune Media Services. Using those data sets it has also built an ad platform for targeted mobile campaigns.

According to What’s Watched CEO Matt Wiggins, the real value of the data it collects is the ability to map the social graph for TV viewers, which allows it to categorize users into different clusters or “tribes” based on the way they use social media. The startup can then offer that data to broadcasters to help them understand how users interact with their shows, and which users are most influential.

“You need to target specific people to get a ratings lift,” Wiggins said on stage at the Social TV Summit in Los Angeles Wednesday. Comparing What’s Watched to Billy Beane’s Oakland A’s in Moneyball, he said that the company can help identify users that media companies can target to increase ratings. With the startup’s data in hand, broadcasters can make more efficient decisions about which groups of users to go after.

What’s Watched isn’t the only company trying to tackle this problem: New York-based media marketing firm Simulmedia also seeks to help networks boost ratings for their shows by using data sets to predict where they should advertise to drum up interest in new shows. And Bluefin Labs can help identify affinity groups between different shows, allowing media companies and marketers to know which shows are likely to have common viewers.