TV Guides Go Social with TunedIn 2.0

By David Knight |

The last time we wrote about TunedIn at the end of 2011, we described social TV as “one of December’s hot trends for startups.” Well, we were wrong – it’s a hot startup trend full stop. And TunedIn is trying to place itself firmly at the forefront of this trend with its latest iOS app, released today.

Co-founder and COO Sebastian Bartz told Silicon Allee that by combining methods of content discovery and social interaction, he believes TunedIn 2.0 is the most comprehensive social TV app available today.

The free ‘second screen’ application was launched on Friday morning and is available in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. It helps users discover what to watch, connect and interact with fellow fans and participate in the TV watching experience.

By far the biggest addition in this latest version of the app is the socially curated TV guide, developed in partnership with TV Digital, part of the Axel Springer empire. Users can browse to see what’s on and tap into the wisdom of the crowd, filtering the channel choice based on community ratings and top trending shows.

Sebastian said: “It’s all about this social buzz indicating what’s hot, where your friends are, what they’re thinking, what they’re watching etc… The TV guide is important because it’s the entry point. You’re sitting there on your couch and you want to watch something, and so you think, ‘what’s on?’ Of course you could just change the channels manually and find out like that, but this is a much more interesting way. Also, and not many TV guides actually allow you to do this, which is almost mind-boggling to me, we integrated a pretty cool timeline which our beta users liked. You go to a day and hit primetime, for example, at 20.15, so you can check out what’s on. It might seem pretty trivial, but there’s not many that let you do this.”

A screenshot of the new TunedIn social TV guide

The new app also enables users to receive personalized recommendations based on their ratings and viewing behavior, follow real-time Twitter feeds and their friends’ Facebook likes, get direct access to VOD streaming services and set reminders for favorite shows and movies.

They can also see what the rest of the world is watching thanks to TunedIn’s trending stats, which analyse and identify the top choices.

Sebastian added: “There are real time tweets for every movie and TV show we have in our database, which is more than 150,000. I actually sat down a coupe of weeks ago and watched Germany’s Next Topmodel to see what the tweets are like, and people were going crazy writing about the girls. Sometimes of course not very sympathetically, but for most people it’s entertaining, that’s what they like. And you can just jump in, participate, tweet.”

The idea for TunedIn came from one of Sebastian’s co-founders, CEO Justin E. Scull, who is based in New York while the rest of the management team is in Berlin. Watching American Idol in 2010, he felt that the lack of interaction was a big mistake.

There is plenty of competition in the space, however, not least, which threw a grand launch party in Berlin last weekend. Sebastian, though, is still confident: “We have the two pillars of content discovery and social interaction. Tweek is only about content discovery through Facebook likes. And then there’s Couchfunk which is only about social interaction because they have only the tweets. So we feel – and what people tell us – is that right now we are the most comprehensive social TV app out there.”

In terms of monetisation, advertising is naturally at the core of the TunedIn model. The service, however, will remain free ad ad-free for at least the next few months as the team look to build their community, just like any young social network.

With the app already having an English version despite only being available in German-speaking countries, Sebastian confirmed that they hope to launch in the US and UK by the end of the year. There will also be versions developed for iPad, Android and the Web.