i.TV launches TVTag in effort to gain social TV critical mass

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A month ago I wrote about the continued consolidation of social TV.  The major driving force in this consolidation is the inability of most purpose-built social TV communities to gain critical mass.  Anyone who’s visited a GetGlue, Zeebox or Miso over the past few years looking for real-time social interaction would often find themselves in sparsely populated social ghost towns.

It’s the chicken-egg problem of any social network: they’re only interesting with lots of people, and without lots of people most anyone who tries won’t stick around long.

So in order to try and gain critical mass, social TV platforms have been merging over the past year, and now i.TV (which acquired GetGlue in 2013) has decided to bring all the users for the branded platforms it controls – GetGlue, Nintendo’s second screen app TVii and DirectTV’s second screen app CoPilot – under one social TV community called TVTag (though GetGlue is the only brand being retired – the others will be a part of TVTag community, but the brands are not being phased out at this time).

The combined size of the three second screen social TV communities is approximately 10 million, according to CEO Brad Pelo (who I interviewed today). About 4.6 million of these are from the GetGlue community, and the remainder from TVii and CoPilot.  Pelo also told me that he expects that later the company will try to migrate users of the i.TV app, which is primarily a TV guide app, to the TVTag network. Pelo said that user base is approximately 5 million users.

So…10 million users and possibly 5 million more seems like it could be enough critical mass to sustain a standalone social TV platform outside of general-purpose social nets that have sucked much of the momentum out of the space, but will they stick around? According to Pelo they will, and the reason is contextualized TV.

Here are his words from an interview Pelo gave to Simon Dumenco of AdAge (which are similar to what he told me, but Dumenco’s piece is worth reading on its own because he dug in deep with Pelo on the interesting angle of the 50 people i.TV hired to manage the contexualization):

TVtag is about contextualization. On Twitter, when I tweet about Sunday night’s “Revenge” episode, it’s interspersed with all the brouhaha about Governor Chris Christie’s revenge episode and other things, and so we’re in this world where the larger audience of Twitter is intermixing with the specific audience of “Revenge.” With TVtag, users will check into their show and then they’re brought to what we call a tagline, and this tagline is contextualized down to the moment, the story moment. The audience can kind of jump in at that point and say whatever they want and contribute content and respond to polls and share memes, or whatever they want around that moment.”

I think contextualizing viewing is an important aspect of social TV, and TVTag’s approach of having 50 or so human content taggers/curators as a foundational piece of the puzzle is an interesting one (though it makes me wonder how scalable it is).

Whether it succeeds will be something to watch over the next year.