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Why the iPad app NextGuide wants to be the Switzerland of TV guides

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NextGuide, the TV recommendation app for the iPad (s AAPL) developed by the guys over at Dijit, rolled out an update Wednesday that adds some social functionality and makes it easier to collect things for you to watch.

It’s a solid update worth checking out if you’re interested in an app that helps you to find shows and movies on live TV as well as streaming services like Amazon (s AMZN) Instant and Netflix (s NFLX) – but the thing that I took away from a conversation I had this week with Dijit CEO Jeremy Toeman was something else. I asked Toeman why there’s even a need for an app like NextGuide, now that everyone from Google (s GOOG) to Roku offers universal search across a multitude of services. His answer: Because we’re Switzerland.

NextGuide’s newest update includes a social stream that shows which content your contacts like – even if they’re not using the app.

Toeman argued that most companies involved in this space have too much of a vested interest to be good at becoming TV’s next recommendation engine. Subscription services like Netflix exclusively focus on their own offerings, and all but ignore anything on live TV. Cable companies on the other hand recommend both live TV and their own on-demand services like (s CMCSK) – but they still don’t link to their competition. “I don’t see the Xfinity app searching Netflix for me,” Toeman quipped.

Device makers are in a bit of a different position, because they often want to present you with as many content choices as possible. But Roku exclusively focuses on viewing content that works on its own devices. That means you’re screwed if you want to watch anything on the TV in your den that doesn’t have a Roku, or even continue watching a movie on your iPad during your morning commute.

NextGuide on the other hand doesn’t care about any of that. The app supports content from 54 5 different content sources, including Netflix, Amazon and Hulu Plus. It currently puts a heavy focus on watching content on the iPad, but it can already be used in conjunction with a DirecTV (s DTV) DVR, and Toeman said that support for other devices and platforms is coming soon.

NextGuide extends this Switzerland-like approach to the way it handles social signals. The newest version of NextGuide integrates an activity stream that lets you see what your friends are doing on the service. But it doesn’t stop there: Users can also see what kind of shows their friends are liking on Facebook, (s FB) even if those friends don’t use NextGuide themselves.

Missing from the app is the kind of restless conversation through pulled in Twitter or Facebook comment streams many others in the space are banking on. Toeman told me that he wants to use social networks to find recommendations for new content, not to relay what everyone is saying about shows and movies. “I don’t care what people tweet,” he told me.

Image courtesy of (CC-BY-SA) Flickr user twicepix.

3 Responses to “Why the iPad app NextGuide wants to be the Switzerland of TV guides”

  1. Martin Zimper

    As a Professor for Cast/Audiovisual Media in Switzerland (Zurich University of the Arts) I don’t understand the connection with NextGuide and Switzerland – could you explain what you mean?

    • Colin Pye

      The use of Switzerland, in this context, is an expression of neutrality, not favouring any one particular listing source over the others. As an example from this article, the app doesn’t choose programming from NetFlix over programming from Xfinity (or, by extension, UVerse, DISH Network, Roku, iTunes, or other programming sources) .

      It comes from the Swiss Confederation’s history of remaining unaligned, or “not taking sides” in the wars that involved so many European countries in the 19th and 20th centuries. Check with your colleagues in the history department if you need further enlightenment.