Social-networking sites like Facebook and Twitter have given television viewers a virtual water cooler to chitchat about their favorite shows. Now some companies are trying to extend that digital outlet a step further by reinventing the way people find TV programs.
App developers are updating the traditional channel guide to show viewers programs that are uniquely relevant to them based on their social circles.
Instead of channel-surfing or scrolling through a long list of shows, viewers can use these mobile apps to display shows that they or their friends like based on their preferences. Some of the apps integrate with Facebook's social network to identify and recommend TV shows and sports teams liked on the social network.
"We can help people discover what to watch in a fundamentally new way," Alex Iskold, chief executive of Adaptive Blue Inc., a New York-based maker of social TV app GetGlue. "When you sit down on the couch, you're wondering, 'What do I watch?' These kinds of guides are going to become pretty ubiquitous."
The apps extend the "social TV" movement that began a few years ago when developers started building apps that let people "check in," or tell their friends what shows they were watching in real-time. The idea was to replicate the success of start-ups like Foursquare Labs Inc., whose mobile app lets people virtually check in to a location and broadcast that information to their friends.
These app developers found, however, that the "check-in" never created enough critical mass to create a viable social TV community on its own.
Mr. Iskold said the check-in was just the foundation for creating a broader shift in how people watch and find new content. The company's original app, which has been downloaded about 3 million times, allowed people to check in to shows and join a real-time chat with others that did the same.
In coming weeks, GetGlue plans to relaunch its app as a social TV guide that will show a scrolling calendar with the shows, movies and sports that users' might like. It will show whether friends who use the app are watching the same show.
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