There are piles of TV companion apps for the iPad and other mobile devices, and while I’ve been signed up for social apps like GetGlue and Miso for years, I’m not in the habit of checking into each show I watch or even opening the app on a regular basis. A person can only use so many apps, right?
Lately, we’re seeing a lot more apps that use ACR (Automated Content Recognition or Audio Content Recognition, depending on who you ask) to identify the content that’s playing onscreen and serve up related offerings like trivia, commentary from other users, and more information about the cast.
Some of these apps are tied to a single TV series or live event, while others are designed to be overall TV companions that recognize whatever you’re watching. And certain ACR apps work only with Live TV, while others work equally well with VOD and OTT content.
With the sea of TV companion apps available, I have to wonder: Does any of this stuff actually enhance the TV experience and get viewers engaged in content?
So this week, I’m comparing two of these ACR apps to see how they differ, and especially whether or not they’re useful to people who are limited to OTT and over-the-air content (for example, me.)
(iOS only, Android app coming soon)
Viggle gives viewers real-time rewards for checking into TV shows, such as movie tickets, music, and gift cards. The check-in process for Viggle is simple, the app looks like a purple version of Shazam with a large logo in the center of the screen that you can tap to “listen.” After the app spends some time capturing a sample of the audio, it sends it to a server and comes back either with a show that you can check in to, or an all-purpose message blaming the background noise.
Viggle works with Live TV only, and while it works well with most cable networks and major broadcast programming, it isn’t able to recognize most of the content on my local over-the-air stations.
For cable subscribers, it’s possible to check in to a lot of shows and rack up the bonus points quickly. For people like me, who are limited to over-the-air, the check-in opportunities are mostly during primetime.
I tried Viggle out on the TV in my home office, which now (thanks to Boxee) gets 28 channels. Viggle generally recognized the content on about 5 of these channels, because the rest are playing telenovelas and religious programming, which it doesn’t recognize. One other thing to keep in mind: Viggle’s ACR feature doesn’t recognize commercials (and Shazam pretty much owns that scene), so you need to use it while the show is actually playing.
Viggle also encourages viewer engagement with live TV during major television events, like the Grammy Awards, allowing users to rack up extra points by answering trivia questions about the commercials and awards ceremony.
Because Viggle requires very little effort to check in to shows, and because it offers tangible rewards for being a couch potato, television enthusiasts will probably be motivated to keep using it. Unfortunately for me, it doesn’t recognize telenovelas or OTT content, so those rewards are a long way off.
(iOS and Android)
Yahoo’s IntoNow app listens for audio fingerprints on live TV AND OTT services like Hulu and Netflix. The process for using IntoNow is generally the same as Viggle, when you open the app there’s a green button at the bottom of the screen that you tap to start listening. While tagging a show is a simple process in both apps, the large button in the Viggle app is much easier to hit on the first try. But in my tests, IntoNow did an impressive job recognizing shows and movies, new and old, on both OTT services and live TV.
IntoNow allows you to share (overshare?) with your social networks and view comments from others watching the show, but doesn’t offer much in the way of polls or other related content. In terms of live over-the-air content, IntoNow picks up the content on about 5 of my live channels, sometimes up to 7 depending on the time of day — not much better than Viggle’s performance. But unlike Viggle, IntoNow is able to tag repeats and old movies that are played on local channels.
IntoNow doesn’t work during advertisements either, but it does have the ability to recognize ads and give you this snarky little reminder:
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You keep it up now, unddnstare? Really good to know.