GetGlue Thinks It Has Fighting Chance Against Twitter, Facebook in Social TV

Startup updates iPhone app with refreshed guide pointing to streaming apps, ability to act as remote control for DirecTV set-tops

Most of the “social conversation” about TV shows and movies is generated by Facebook’s 1.1 billion and Twitter’s 200 million-plus active users.

So how can GetGlue, a social TV app startup with a relatively minuscule 1.2 million active monthly users, compete for ad dollars against the giants? Founder and CEO Alex Iskold argues that GetGlue provides an experience tailored for TV and entertainment fans that’s more engaging than the big guys can offer.

“The truth is both Twitter and Facebook are very big, but they are completely horizontal,” Iskold said. “We’re focused on content discovery, helping people find what to watch, and connecting them and delighting them.”

To that end, GetGlue is releasing an update for its iPhone app that has a redesigned guide — which lets users find content not just on TV but also on streaming services like Netflix and in theaters — and can act as a remote control for DirecTV’s set-top boxes. The app started as a “check-in” service, letting users indicate what TV show they were tuned in to at any given time, and has now expanded to try to cover the waterfront as a full TV and movie entertainment guide.

SEE ALSO: Twittervision: How Video + Social Media Will Change Twitter (and Entertainment)

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GetGlue version 5 for iPhone, skedded to be available Thursday, adds a “What to Watch” section that in addition to TV shows provides listings for content on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Instant Video, Apple iTunes, and a range of TV networks’ streaming services including those from HBO, CBS, Fox, FX and AMC. A new “search and discover” feature lets users browse by genre or pick from curated lists (such as “Date Night” movies).

“We’ve tried to address the wall between linear TV and binge watching,” Iskold said. “The whole point is, people don’t really care where a piece of content is — they just want to watch what they want by just pressing one button.”

The update is aimed at keeping GetGlue a step ahead of its rivals. Twitter specifically has turned toward bulking up efforts to monetize television-related tweets. Twitter has acquired two social TV measurement services, Bluefin Labs and Trendrr, and cut a pact with Nielsen to introduce a social TV rating, while also introducing a way to target promoted tweets to TV viewers.

“We are in direct competition with Twitter,” Iskold acknowledged. “They have clearly pivoted into the TV space.”

Another new feature in the GetGlue app is the ability for users who are DirecTV subscribers to use the app as a remote control, to change the channel from the “On TV Now” section in the guide. According to Iskold, GetGlue is working with two other major pay-TV providers to add the remote-control capability later this fall.

For specific TV shows, the updated GetGlue app now provides episode information on upcoming air dates and includes filters to see videos, photos or live comments from other fans via Twitter. The new version also lets users post GIFs, videos, news articles and other content to their posts; the best of the user-generated content will be featured on show pages.

SEE ALSO: Facebook Users More Tuned to Broadcast Than Cable Shows

GetGlue expects to release an updated app for Android devices next week with the new features, with an iPad version targeted for the fourth quarter.

The New York-based startup’s clients have included 75 TV networks and 25 movie studios, as well as YouTube, which run promotional campaigns in the app to target specific user profiles. Current advertisers include FX, AMC, Universal Pictures and Sony Pictures Entertainment. GetGlue, which has 45 employees, has raised $24 million funding from Time Warner Inc., Union Square Ventures, RRE Ventures, Rho Ventures and angel investors.

Last year, GetGlue entered into an abortive bid to be acquired by another New York-based social TV app startup, Viggle, for about $60 million in cash and stock. That deal fell through when Viggle, backed by Robert F.X. Sillerman, was unable to raise financing necessary for the deal.

Other TV-oriented app players include TV Guide; Zeebox, whose backers include Comcast, NBCUniversal, Viacom and BSkyB; Dijit Media’s NextGuide; Shazam Entertainment; and Yahoo’s IntoNow.

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