The space for social TV services — tweeting with other viewers during live broadcasts, for example — is still a wide-open game, with a number of players from startups to established consumer electronics giants looking to make a mark. One of the earliest movers, GetGlue, today is announcing two important milestones to underscore its growth: a new round of funding totalling $12 million, and two million users on its social network.
GetGlue says that this current round of financing was led by RHO Ventures, whose managing partner, Habib Kairouz, will now join the company’s board of directors. An earlier round of $6 million was raised in November 2010 and investors from that round, which included TimeWarner, RRE Ventures, and Union Square Ventures, also participated in this most recent round.
The funding will be used to continue growing the company and for international expansion: “International will inevitably lead us to the Spanish market in 2012,” CEO Alex Iskold told paidContent. “We’re also getting a strong push to do that from existing partners. That will be our next move: first in Latin America, and then Spanish-language channels in the U.S.”
GetGlue says that in 2011 it clocked up 100 million check-ins from its two million users. That represents annual check-in growth of 1,000 percent, and a database of 350 million check-ins, ratings and reviews.
There are a number of social media companies looking to link up with broadcasters to enhance the live-viewing experience and they, too, are picking up funding and distribution partners. Just earlier this week, Zeebox announced a funding and partnership deal with the broadcaster BSkyB (NYSE: BSY) in the UK.
Where GetGlue is perhaps standing out at the moment is not only in its user numbers and usage, but in the number of broadcasting partners that it has. It says that at the moment it is working with 75 networks, covering 680 TV programs. On top of that, it is also getting increasing coverage through those broadcasters’ own digital properties: 30 companies have embedded GetGlue’s check-in platform in their apps and on their websites. Pay-TV company DirecTV (NYSE: DTV) is perhaps running the most integrated service of them all: GetGlue is powering check-ins for the company and appears on the first page of its “social” listings guide.
That kind of scale could put GetGlue on par with Foursquare in terms of how they are leading their respective check-in patches against many others that are looking to carve out a business in this space.
But that also begs the question of whether a company like Foursquare might also like to extend its check-in domination to non-physical spaces like TV programs, too; and whether there could be some consolidation on the cards, with another social network gobbling up a TV check-in company, as Facebook did with Gowalla last year in the physical check-in space.
Iskold told paidContent that for now his company is still focussed on growing and scaling up, rather than making money. But that does not mean that it is not starting to think of what it will do, when it does begin to roll out more revenue-generating services.
“I think we’re firmly an advertising company,” he said. “The revenue and monetization has not been our focus to date as we focus on defining and winning the market. But it is fair to say we already have interest in big brands like Gap, Coca Cola and HTC. The plan is to have more ad campaigns in 2012.”
Conversely, where GetGlue does not plan to make money is in the commercial use of its growing database — the one that now has 350 million check-ins, reviews and ratings of various TV shows.
“We do not have any plans to anonymise or sell or give that data to ad networks,” he said. “In our mind, the value of the data is in analytics.” He says GetGlue does some of that analytics in house already, and also shares some data with certain partners like Nielsen.
Data and research is one other area that might see fees introduced, although not very soon. “Right now these arrangements are non-paid. They are good for the broader ecosystem. Providing the data for free makes a lot of sense,” he explained. The data at the moment gets provided via the company’s APIs and its own GetGlue platform. “It’s a web service so we control who gets it and how,” he said, adding, “There may be plans to monetise it in the future, but today it’s free.”
GetGlue is free to use by consumers and broadcasters, and Iskold said GetGlue has not rolled out a premium version “yet,” meaning that this could also be a potential revenue stream — for example offering users an ad-free experience compared to a freemium version supported by ads.
While the majority of activity on GetGlue at the moment is related to simple check-ins for programs, it looks like the startup is hoping for more interactivity and — as befitting a company with the word “glue” in their name — “stickiness” in the future. That’s no surprise since those should be key metrics for would-be advertisers.
Some moves in that direction include a new iPhone app, which now has an option to engage in conversations around a program, as well as a recommendation feature.