In another signal the “second screen” TV-companion app craze is ebbing, Yahoo said it is phasing out IntoNow, a three-year-old app that automatically recognized what viewers were watching and delivered synchronized content.
Turns out, many people who watch TV really just want to watch TV instead of fiddling with an app in their lap at the same time. Or, if they’re interacting with friends, they’re more likely to commune via Twitter or Facebook rather than a dedicated TV app.
But the concept of mobile apps that let viewers interact with TV programming is not completely dead — and the dwindling number of players may actually benefit those that remain.
Yahoo, in a message titled “We’re Out like Walter White” on the IntoNow website, said that “as part of our ongoing efforts to sharpen our focus,” the IntoNow app will stop working on March 31, 2014. The apps for iOS and Google Android have been unavailable to download since Jan. 24.
The underlying IntoNow technology will live on through other products and apps, like Yahoo Smart TV and the new Loops feature in the Yahoo Sports app for iOS7, the company said. Yahoo announced the change on Twitter last week and the shutdown was reported Tuesday by TechCrunch.
Yahoo acquired IntoNow for around $20 million in April 2011 — less than three months after the startup was formed. IntoNow founder Adam Cahan is now senior VP of mobile and emerging products.
But the death of IntoNow doesn’t mean every player in the whole category is on its deathbed. Shazam Entertainment, which started as a song-recognition app, has been been downloaded more than 420 million times worldwide, with 80 million monthly active users. Starting in late 2012, it also has the ability to detect what’s on U.S. TV by scanning about 160 channels in real time.
Shazam has teed up several features specifically for Super Bowl XLVIII on Feb. 2, to let fans not only identify ads but also track the game’s progress in the app. The company says it has deals with certain Super Bowl advertisers but wouldn’t identify them or disclose terms. In 2013, the Super Bowl was “shazamed” more than 250,000 times — and Shazam is expecting that to be much higher this year.
Other developers continue to invest in second-screen apps. Coincidentally, on Tuesday Utah-based TV guide app company i.TV announced it was discontinuing GetGlue, the name of the second-screen TV startup it acquired last fall. Instead, i.TV is launching “tvtag,” an app that will replace GetGlue that lets TV viewers share moments from the program they’re watching with their friends. The tvtag service is launching with a user base approaching 10 million, said CEO Brad Pelo.
How it works: i.TV is paying more than 50 professional curators to watch live TV and then caption the clips. The company has about 85 employees total, with about a dozen in New York from the GetGlue deal.
But even today, how some second-screen TV apps plan to make money isn’t clear. In the case of tvtag? “The business model will be ad-based,” Pelo said. But for now, “that hasn’t been fully drawn out in the product.”