Social TV: Is Myspace Too Late Again?
Aside from rousing praise at CES by co-owner Justin Timberlake, Myspace isn't getting much love these days — even from big boss Rupert Murdoch, who admits to a giant foul-up in how News Corp. has managed the company.
But the network soldiered on at CES last week, announcing a deal with Panasonic to make television more social with its Myspace TV app. Running on new Web-enabled "VIERA Connect" sets, the app allows Myspace friends to see what their pals are watching and chat about it in real time. (It will come to other TV brands later.) Myspace TV launches in the first half of the year, and people can sign up for a trial at myspace.com/tv .
It's an idea whose time has come — and in fact did come a few years ago when people began using Twitter and Facebook to chat about television. Witness, for example, the 9,420 tweets per second referencing Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow around the time of his 80-yard touchdown pass in overtime on Jan. 8.
But Myspace thinks that it can make TV even more social with a dedicated app replacing the ad-hoc juggling of a TV set with smartphone or laptop.
They won't really be first to this, either. At least a half-dozen other companies already have social TV apps. One of the biggest is GetGlue , an iPhone, iPad and Android phone app, with a website for other phones. It allows people to "check in" to indicate they are watching a particular TV show, movie or even live concert. They can then see who else — friend or potential friend — is also checked in and have a chat over the app, while also sending their comments to Facebook or Twitter.
The company says it had 2 million users and more than 100 million check-ins last year. And GetGlue has plenty of competitors, including IntoNow, Peel, Social Guide, yap.tv, Miso and Umami.
Most of them also serve as guides, by showing what programs are popular at the moment and which ones people might like based on the shows they already watch.
Of course, most of these apps still require people remembering to check in. "TV is a fantastic lean-back," said Myspace CEO Tim Vanderhook. "I want to be entertained when I’m watching television. I don't want to be manually checking into a device."
The Myspace TV app saves the trouble because, by running on the set, it automatically knows what people are watching. It's not quite alone here, however. If Peel users also buy the $100 wireless remote station, selecting a show in the app also tunes the TV to that channel. And Umami promises to recognize what's playing by analyzing the audio from a show (a la music-spotting app Shazam).
And the benefits of Myspace TV must be weighed against the hard question: Who's still on Myspace these days? It gets less than a sixth as many visitors as Facebook, according to a December report from analytics firm comScore.
GetGlue and other social TV apps hardly have big followings, either. But people can sign up for them through the world's largest network, Facebook, simply by tapping a button. That enables the TV apps to post check-ins to the mega-social network, allowing most people to share with a lot more friends than they could on Myspace.
And, of course, the other apps work with most of the smartphones that about half of American's already have, plus with many tablets. So people can get social with the other apps right now, without having to buy a new TV.