MTV's launches 'WatchWith' for iPhone

By Natan Edelsburg 

Today, MTV announced an iPhone version of their WatchWith app (already available for the iPad) to offer a second screen experience for their shows, “including Jersey Shore, Awkward, Teen Wolf, 16 & Pregnant, Teen Mom and The Challenges.”

Kristin Frank, general manager of MTV/VH1 digital media, explained how important this new app is for the brand. “From a strategic prospective, what we’re always trying to do with all the products we launch is trying to make sure we’re making truly additive experience and take the passion our audience has for our linear properties and stars and create another level of deep engagement with them across all platforms.”

A second screen app that won’t distract you

The app is purposely designed as a complimentary add-on to your television screen. MTV says it went out of the way to design a user experience that won’t distract viewers from what they’re watching via their cable provider. They’ve done a great a job at doing this so far. When you open the app, everything is refreshingly simple and easy to navigate. The home screen features large show images (above) — tap one to navigate to a show page with a curated feed of tweets (below) moving at a perfectly-timed pace around specific episodes. Even better, the grandpa-safe large fonts allow you to glance down every once in awhile during a show without missing anything.

Gaming features, too

One of the most interesting features is the “Achievements” element which awards you virtual badges for tapping into different pieces of content within the app. There are currently 54 different possible achievements one can earn. There will also be about ten trivia questions per show.

The value of creating an app on their own: they know what’s going to happen across their programming and access to stars

“We know what’s going to happen in all of these shows. We can take content from what’s happening in the linear show. Whether it’s incremental cuts or behind the scenes information we can put it in when you care the most,” discussed Frank.

VP of Wireless Michael Scogin added on about the possibilities the app creates to change the way MTV produces content. “We’ve been creating exclusive content around our shows for years now but mostly to go check after the show. This idea of being able to sync content with points in the show will start to affect how we create that content and program it.”

Also, they’ve already given fans exclusive access to stars via the app. Tyler Posey who plays Scott McCall on the show Teen Wolf live-tweets with fans. The more talent MTV’s digital team can get involved with the app might ultimately determine if it will be a success.

What about other second screen startups that have been trying to work with MTV?

There are now multiple second screen apps on the market. GetGlue, yap.TV, Bee.TV, Miso and even GroupMe have been coming up with ways to tap into the fact that television viewers are engaged on a second screen while they watch content. WatchWith currently integrates with Twitter and Facebook. When asked if this new second screen app should scare new startups away, Scogin answered:

“Hopefully they’ll still want to work with us and work with us here. GetGlue has an API where you can integrate into the app. We’ve worked with GroupMe with their SMS API. There’s a great opportunity to work with us in that way. We’re completely open to that. We’ve done things with IntoNow around Jersey Shore. There’s definitely still room and opportunities for those guys.”

What’s the business value and how will success be judged?

MTV plans on using their second screen app to offer more value to their advertisers. The opportunities are great for brands to not only sync their messages into the app as linear programming is being watched but also to do things like offering branded “achievements” or trivia questions.

When asked if they’ll be paying a lot of attention to download numbers, they answered: “the download number doesn’t mean that much to us, just the amount of times they come back each week.”

Who built the app for them?

MTV has partnered with the TV Tune-In platform, built by mobile developers Rogue Paper (the same platform used for VH1’s almost identical Co-Star app). According to a TechCrunch article their platform “allows media companies to develop branded iPhone and iPad apps for television shows and channels.” This is definitely a company to watch out for in the social TV space and their board of advisors even includes Twitter CEO Dick Costello.