Companion Apps

If you work in broadcast television, you primarily make your money from advertising.  While cable operators might be a sizable part of your revenue mix,  you are largely concerned with great content that will attract loyal audiences that you can sell high-value, targeted advertising against.  Nothing new there.

However, DVRs, Hulu, Netflix  and even P2P networks have started affecting the model as consumers are behaving in less predictable ways (although some studies claim that your behavior isn’t that unpredictable).  The big marketing push for networks is still what’s referred to as “Tune In” messaging.   As a viewer, you are most valuable when you sit down when you’re supposed to and watch your broadcast television all the way through.  Don’t get up and go to the bathroom: watch the ads. Buy the products. Tell your friends.  Rinse. Repeat.

With that in mind, it makes sense that the majority of big television events in American history are sporting events.  You really can’t DVR a game and get the same value from it; it’s just not the same experience.   With this in mind, it also makes sense that networks are investing in the new companion application segment.  While the adoption isn’t there yet and will probably take some time, I think networks are going to continue to invest in companion apps as we move forward.

Aside from being able to “check in”  at your entertainment event and tell your friends (advertising your attendance and making a word-of-mouth recommendation),  companion apps encourage users to connect, preferably in real time,  with other viewers to chat and comment.  I think that the real value with companion applications is that, if they gain adoption,  you won’t want to miss the broadcast of your favorite show because there won’t be anyone to chat with in real time if you DVR it…the experience won’t be quite the same.

Companies are working on companion apps in different ways.  Here are a few of the many companion app executions out in the space right now. Check one out and let me know what you think:

IntoNow ( is pretty novel as far as companion apps go.  Billed as the “Shazam” for TV, with IntoNow users can use the audio from their TV to tell the app what they’re watching.  It allows users to check in to a show,  let others know what they’re watching and find out who else watched the same program.  It also connects to IMDB and Netflix to allow you to add items to your queue and get more info.


Get Glue ( is a network that I’ve used on the web, but have yet to use on mobile.  Get Glue is working on a broad entertainment check-in play (think Foursquare for TV).  Users can check in to all of their favorite entertainment entities, whether they are films, television shows or even musicians.  GetGlue is currently offering rewards from networks in exchange for their check-in;  which has driven 900,000 members and about 12 million check ins.   The company is backed by Time Warner Investments.

Miso ( Hearst and Google Ventures are backing a play that is similar to GetGlue.  Miso is another entertainment check-in application and netwrok that offers rewards in exchange for checking in, and recently landed a partnership with the Oprah Winfrey Network (“everyone’s getting check ins!!!!”)

Tunerfish ( is essentially Comcast’s companion application version of Miso and GetGlue; check-in into shows will get users rewards.  One of the interesting plays with Tunerfish is their partnership with HBO,  as well as a potential integration with Fancast (I think it’s called XFINITY TV now), which would give users access to extra (exclusive or otherwise) content.

The (awesome) Oscar App conceptually really hit on the real-time affect of getting content in a curated, produced  way through a companion application.  The Academy and ABC partnered up to give viewers exclusive behind-the-scenes content from the Oscars this year, if you had the oscar application.  While I can’t seem to find any available data on the number of check-ins, this is a great application of tune-in when it comes to companions.  I’m looking forward to checking this one out next year.


7 Differences Between Mobile and Online Media

As phones become smart phones, and smart phones become tablets, it’s getting harder to identify the differences beween what constitutes “mobile” and what defines “online”.  After all, we can do almost everything on a phone today that we can on desktop.

But there are differences when you scratch a bit below the surface, especially when it comes to media and advertising.  Here’s a list of some of the key differences that I’ve been thinking about:

  1. Limited Bandwidth: Mobile web users are not typically on Wi-fi, so are subject to higher bandwidth limitations when compared with their web-browsing counterparts.  This difference affects the design of web browsers and the amount of content that a user can consume (and therefore user behavior).
  2. Different user goals: Typical mobile web users are goal-directed, unless they are on apps. Their intentions on the mobile web are often to find out specific pieces of information that are relevant to their context.  This means less “browsing”, less content (no lengthy documents), more directions and more last-resort sources of data.  While this behavior is evolving with the improvement of mobile devices and the popularity of applications, web browsing remains a different behavior on mobile than it is on a desktop.
  3. Screen Size:  Due to the lack of standards around screen sizes, advertisers must deliver creative units in a minimum of four sizes for display advertising.  This has created challenges that were easier to overcome in desktop media.
  4. Mobile Browser Limitations: Mobile browsers often do not support scripting or plug-ins, which means that the range of content supported is limited. In many cases the user has no choice of browser.
  5. Location, Location, Location:  While it remains difficult to locate a mobile web user by analyzing IP address (as is done on desktops), location information determined by means such as mobile phone tracking and other real-time locating system technologies like Wi-Fi or RFID can be used to customize media content presented on the device.  While hyper-local advertising solutions have yet to enjoy broad adoption, the unique goals of the mobile user, coupled with the ability to identify a user’s location within a few yards presents a unique opportunity to engage with a consumer.
  6. Applications:  Players like Apple have flirted with the idea that desktop users are interested in a wide variety of applications; but so far mobile smart phones and tablets have been unique in that a broad range of users are willing to spend money on, and accept advertising from, a wide variety of very narrowly-focused applications.
  7. Analytics and tracking: For a variety of reasons, analytics is one of the larger challenges facing mobile content developers and advertisers because identifying visitors is difficult to do.  This is a pretty deep topic in-and-of itself,  and with all of the changes currently being proposed to tracking, this is becoming even more complicated of a topic.