Sharing that you’re watching a TV show can only go so far in terms of engagement. So thinks Insticator founder Zack Dugow, who has developed a second screen app that will reward users with real prizes based on their predictions about both scripted and live television. The conversation begins not simply because users are watching the same program but because they are deeply interested in the characters, the storylines, and what will happen next.
According to Dugow, this was recently exemplified by Game of Thrones’s shocking “Red Wedding” episode. The sudden plot twist resulted in a social media frenzy. Moving forward, Dugow wants users to win prizes for predicting such twists [assuming the show is not based on a book]. We caught up with Dugow, who explained how his passion for original programming led him to create Insicator.
Lost Remote: Why did you launch Insticator?
Zack Dugow: I really enjoyed “Calling it” or what I thought would happen when I was watching some of my favorite TV shows that I loved. Especially the scripted shows that I got really into with the characters. Soprano’s, Entourage, and many others years ago. I thought that other people would really enjoy predicting and “Calling it” as well, I thought it would be really great if people had a way to be rewarded for predicting what they thought would happen. Especially the shows that were very complex with the story lines…that it would be something that people would really want to bet on, after doing more research on gaming It appeared to be the best fit as a form of gamification that everyone can partake in. Where people’s opinions have value and being able to call something that will happen is something you can be 1. Very proud of 2. Get rewarded for. 3. Get some nice bragging rights with and stand out.
LR: What are its main features?
Dugow: Users can make predictions about what will happen in their favorite shows. They then win points and can use those points to redeem them for real prizes. They can share socially and converse with other people who may think along the same lines as them with their favorite characters or think the opposite. Its three main features are prediction, conversing, and the prizes.
We are also building out some other features like our Subscription feature, where users can subscribe to their favorite shows and get notifications when new prediction are live that involve that show, is coming soon.
We also cover predictions on live TV events like the Emmy awards, MTV VMAs, The Teen Choice Awards, UFC and others. Predicting what scripted show may win “Best Drama” is something people do when they watch the Emmy’s anyways. Now they can be rewarded for it.
LR: Why is this a good platform for scripted social TV?
Dugow: I think it’s a good platform for scripted social because it really applies a totally different metric to the environment. Instead of allowing users to “Check in” and chat with other people who could be watching the same thing it allows people to start a conversation purely based off of what’s deeply engaging about that show and its story line and characters. It gives people something to root for, whether it’s a characters death or a new love interest, or a character freeing themselves from a abusive mother in law you find yourself rooting for something to happen. Similar to if you are a big sports fan and your team is playing you get excited at every moment hoping they’ll win.
I envision people sitting on the couch watching their favorite shows: Mad Men, The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, Wilfred, Falling Skies, True Blood and jumping up for joy when a character defeats there arch nemesis. Because not only did their favorite character just defeat the bad guy or good guy, but the user just won an iPod when that happened. Whether it’s that or the opposite and your rooting for something else, it adds an element of excitement. The “Game is on the Line”, so to speak, mentally while your watching things unfold in real time. You pay closer attention when you have more to gain from the result.
LR: Any brand partners?
Dugow: We are currently in talks with a lot of big brands, including some TV networks that we are building relationships with. Our rewards section will be finished in a few weeks to which users will be able to start redeeming for prizes. They can currently win points which will go to rewards that will be up soon. Currently we have setup our relationships with Chocomize, Myclean, Paintzen, and with a lot of other rewards partners we are in the middle of the process of bringing them on board. I think it really makes sense for our brand partners as we get to connect their brand with a moment of elation and happiness in our users. Serious Happiness…Daenerys Targaryen taking back the iron throne kind of happiness.
LR: What’s your background?
Dugow: First and foremost I have always been a lover of television. I owned a entertainment and media company that focused a lot on promotional marketing, entertainment, sponsored events. I was able to make a lot of contacts in the product and entertainment world plus have a lot of awesome experiences that I learned from. I have always been a lover of TV and have been involved with social and digital for a while. I really became fortunate to connect the dots with Insticator and bring together elements that I love working on and think people will enjoy using.
LR: Anything else?
Dugow: I think it’s a really exciting time for television in general with so much amazing TV, especially scripted TV on the air you really connect with, and exciting characters with interesting personalities. The characters, their challenges and growth are things we as an audience identify with and thus we care. At the end of the day whether we see what a character is going through and it reminds of us of our own issues, a breakup or a time of sadness, one of our friends, or an accomplishment we connect with them. I think the entire world’s response to the episode of “The Red Wedding” certainly showed how much we really do care. That’s why I am excited about Insticator. Insticator is a vehicle for giving value to our opinions the ups and downs the rights and wrongs and wins and losses. We have a really awesome team that loves watching TV as much as they do working on the product, everyone is working really hard, I’m really excited about what we can accomplish. I’m all about building something that people will get excited to use and enjoy using. We definitely plan on implementing a build in system for other TV applications to work with as well. A feature we plan on implementing called “User Created Predictions”, where users will create there own predictions that other users can take positions on will be something people will enjoy. Personally I’m excited to see how people from other countries will engage with Insticator and make their prediction, and how they will predict with the characters they love from their own native TV shows as well. I think that is a really exciting element. Social TV and the second screen is in a really innovative time and were looking forward to the experience.