Social TV Startup GetGlue Plots Expansion With $12M in New Funding

Tech entrepreneur Alex Iskold has always been a huge entertainment fan, especially when it comes to his favorite TV shows, but a few years back he was frustrated by what he saw as a major void in social media. “Even though I was on Facebook and Twitter, it was hard for me to find out what my friends were watching on TV,” he says.

So in late 2009, Iskold started GetGlue, a company that provides multiple platforms for TV fans to congregate around their favorite shows. GetGlue has acquired quite a following in its short history: 2 million people use its mobile and Web tools, the company says, and 75 TV networks are now using GetGlue to reach out directly to their fans. That was what inspired the $12 million funding round GetGlue announced yesterday, says Habib Kairouz, managing partner at Rho Ventures, which led the round. “An emerging, strong trend is that people are using their iPads and iPhones while they’re watching TV,” Kairouz says. “GetGlue does a very good job of working within the television ecosystem to provide additional value.”

GetGlue allows people to “check in” to their favorite shows while they’re watching them. They can then follow the stream of conversation from other fans, and get access to exclusive content and coupons offered by the networks and their sponsors. Iskold says GetGlue has put a lot of effort into tailoring the experience to each user, and to eliminating the “noise” that’s common on other social-networking sites—such as nonsensical comments. “We built a filtering technology that in real-time removes what it deems uninteresting,” he says. Users can also follow people in a Twitter-esque way, such as their offline friends or other GetGlue-rs who they find titillating. “Comments [about a show] from people you know will be the ones you see first,” Iskold says.

But similar to other members of the new class of tech startups, GetGlue is still figuring out how to monetize its offerings. “We are largely a pre-revenue company,” Iskold admits. The new funding, he says, will allow the company to continue to expand its user base, which he hopes will lead to new revenue opportunities.

Iskold predicts that most of GetGlue’s revenues will come from advertising—and the company has some early experiences from which to build. For example, during the most recent season of The X Factor, Pepsi ran a campaign on GetGlue. During the show’s six-month run,Iskold says, Pepsi awarded fans with a variety of coupons, discounts, and other promotions. The Gap also ran a campaign on GetGlue in which it offered 40-percent-off coupons to folks who checked in to some of the new shows that debuted last fall.

Kairouz adds that GetGlue may be able to secure opportunities to share ad revenues with the owners of television content. Say, for example, a brand wants to advertise on American Idol but can’t because all the spots are taken. “They can advertise on GetGlue and get access to a broad and engaged audience, and GetGlue can share the incremental revenue with the content owners,” he says. But GetGlue needs to build a larger audience, he adds, in order to generate enough interest from advertisers.

GetGlue is also looking into the possibility of selling the data it collects to networks and other businesses. “We believe that in the future there will be a big demand for understanding social sentiment,” Iskold says. The company is able to break down TV watching behavior according to a variety of metrics, such as the popularity of individual episodes, the propensity of fans to watch a show live vs. recording and watching it later, and the most popular shows by gender. (Community is the top show among men as measured by check-ins, GetGlue reports, while Grey’s Anatomy is most popular among women.) “I think we can monetize our data in the form of analytics,” Iskold says.

GetGlue’s last funding round was in November 2010, for $6 million. Existing investors TimeWarner, RRE Ventures, and Union Square Ventures also participated in the round announced yesterday.

Iskold says GetGlue will continue to improve its social-TV tools. It has introduced a personalized recommendation feature, and the company is updating its iPad app. GetGlue also plans to develop an app for Android tablets, he says.

Iskold, who previously founded a software company that he sold to IBM, says he’s keeping an eye on the competition. Facebook and Twitter play in the TV space, “but they’re so broad we don’t view them as competitors,” he says. He sees his closest competitor as Miso, a San Francisco company that just raised $4 million from Khosla Ventures. But Iskold is confident GetGlue has taken an early lead. “We’re literally working with every major TV network,” he says. “Our competitors haven’t come remotely close to that.”

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