Will Check-Ins Spur the Return of ‘Must See TV’?

Just as consumers get used to “checking in” on each other’s every move, from the grocery store to the neighborhood bar, the fad is invading an even more private space: your television set.

The success of location-based apps like Foursquare and Facebook Places have prompted media companies to quickly secure deals with check-in start-ups like Miso, Philo, Starling and GetGlue. But will these partnerships be able to do for content what Foursquare did for locations?

For media companies the apps are a way to build loyalty programs to reward their most dedicated watchers. For fans, the check-in options seem to be a way to feed the “one-upmanship” beast social networking tools have created.

“Checking in is a repetitive behavior that demonstrates continuity,” Alex Iskold, GetGlue founder-CEO, tells Ad Age. “I can like ‘True Blood’ on Facebook, or I can check in to ‘True Blood’ every Sunday night, religiously. It demonstrates I’m a better fan that just someone who Likes.”

GetGlue, for one, has an exclusive deal with Fox that allows users who check-in to Fox shows such as ‘Glee’ to unlock special previews of the network’s upcoming shows. On Philo, viewers with enough credits can become the ‘executive producer’ of their favorite show.

The apps are a relatively easy, high-tech way for media companies to reach the goal of all service providers: making the user feel special.

The early versions of these TV-specific “check-ins” seek to build loyalty mainly through just awarding stickers and badges. Or, as Sabrina Caluori, HBO‘s director of marketing and social media describes it they need only be, “…as simple as holding somebody up in an exalted position…”

This leads some to question whether these tools will be able to hold their own as a stand-alone model.

Ad Age reports MTV is one network that has chosen to stick with Foursquare rather than pair with apps like GetGlue designed just for the niche TV market, reasoning that it’s better to ‘extend content into the real world rather than keeping the check-in about what’s on screen.’

So only time will tell whether telling Fox you’ve tuned into ‘Glee’ will deliver the same rewards, or personal high, as telling the world you’ve arrived at the neighborhood bar.