On the VC panel at the Lost Remote Show, Chris Fralic, partner at First Round Capital, praised Twitter’s approach to building a standalone music app that ties to external services like Spotify. He raised the idea that Twitter could do the same for TV, which certainly sounds plausible, especially as Twitter #Music continues to ride high on the App Store charts.
The Twitter #Music app is geared toward serendipitous discovery, so in a similar way, a Twitter #TV app would be a social guide for people who aren’t looking for a specific show, but just want to discover something cool to watch. In the world of media use cases, that remains a big, yet focused problem to solve: aimlessly flipping through channels or scanning a program guide with your remote control is extremely inefficient.
However, if Twitter tied the entire app to external services like Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime, it would raise eyebrows among the networks because it discourages live viewing — their bread and butter. But organizing the app around live viewing first and video services second seems to be the best fit for Twitter’s emerging TV business model.
So what would the #TV app look like? Instead of opening with a “Popular” screen, like the #Music app, it would start with an “On Now” screen of popular shows trending across Twitter that are on the air right now. This would require users to enter a zip code and TV service as they configure the app. The popular shows would be identified by looking for references to show titles, actors and hashtags, which Twitter acquisition Bluefin Labs is already doing on the advertising front. Tap a show, and it provides the channel where it’s airing (on the Android version of the app, it could also act as a remote control.)
Like the #Music app, the second tab could be “Emerging,” illustrating up-and-coming shows that aren’t airing right now. Here, you can watch it on Netflix, Hulu Plus or Amazon Prime, if the show is available (you could watch it on TV using Airplay if you have an Apple TV). You could buy it straight off iTunes, or you could set a reminder so you’ll get an email before the show airs. (Twitter could also start tying the app into MVPD set-top boxes, so it could trigger DVR recordings, in subsequent versions.)
The “Suggested” tab would surface actors, not shows, which would then give you the chance to follow them straight from the app. And instead of #NowPlaying, which the #Music app uses to see what you’re friends are listening to, it would become #NowWatching, to see what your friends are watching — a Twitter check-in of sorts.
If this sounds similar to several other social guides like Yap.TV, NextGuide and BuddyTV, it is. Like Twitter’s acquisition of the startup We Are Hunted to help power the #Music app, you could imagine Twitter acquiring one of the social guide startups to give them a jump-start on the #TV app. But Twitter’s DNA is TV, and it may be able to whip this up on their own, especially now that the #Music app has provided a template.
If done well, a Twitter #TV app could quickly overcome every other second screen app in reach in a matter of weeks. After all, both Vine and #Music have accumulated large audiences very quickly. The #TV app would reinforce Twitter’s role in the TV ecosystem by further illustrating its influence on viewing behavior. It would encourage networks to double-down on encouraging viewers to tweet to make shows appear higher in the #TV app. It would provide a new advertising opportunity, both inside the app and as a source of user data, which can be applied across the wider Twitter universe. And Twitter could offer a #TV API, enabling cable, satellite and IPTV companies the ability to integrate the functionality into their set top boxes.