Miso Takes Social TV Beyond Check-Ins

Startup unveils 'SideShows'

If you've ever watched a TV show and reached to look up something on your smartphone, social TV startup Miso is unveiling what may be the most seamless way to get your answers—and in the process, it's offering a persuasive response to the question, "Why bother with all these social TV apps?"

Miso started out as an app that allowed users to let their friends know what they're watching on TV, by "checking in" to TV show. But CEO Somrat Niyogi has also said that the app needs to include more than check-ins, especially as the big social networks start to add media-sharing capabilities.

So how does Miso go beyond check-ins? Product manager Katie Smillie demonstrated the new feature, called SideShows, to Adweek on Tuesday. Basically, it's a slideshow of additional content that can be synchronized to run alongside a TV show. In one example, Smillie showed a fan-created, fashion-focused SideShow for Gossip Girl. When a notable outfit appeared on screen, the SideShow would bring up a card with more information about the clothes, as well as an image and an online shopping link. Another example was a demo that SideShow created for MTV's high school comedy Awkward. As a song played during show, Miso brought up a card with the title, artist, and a link to the song on Spotify.

In some ways, this may seem like an update to the on-screen captions and annotations that TV shows and DVDs have experimented with in the past. But the SideShows are more interactive, since they're connected to the Web. And because they're on your phone (it's only available on the iPhone initially), they don't interfere with the TV image itself.

The SideShows synchronize with your TV through Miso's partnerships with DirecTV, AT&T U-Verse, and Boxee. So if you use one of those services, Miso knows exactly where you are in a program and can time the SideShow accordingly. You can close the app, and Miso will still notify you about Cards at the right time. (Unfortunately, if you pause the show, you'll have to open the app to sync it again.) Smillie says Miso is working to expand those partnerships, as well as exploring other methods to synchronize SideShows with TVs. For now, if you aren't a DirecTV, U-Verse, or Roku customer, you can still swipe through the SideShows at your own pace.

Both fans and networks can create these experiences—in fact, they already have. Miso recruited some of the most active fans in the app's community to build the initial SideShows, and it also partnered with networks including Showtime and Fox for early experiments.

This could provide new opportunities for advertisers. For example, if a TV show includes product placement, then whenever the featured product shows up on-screen, Miso could bring up a card with more information and a link. 

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