/// An App for Couch Potatoes With Places to Go
Thumbing through printed television listings is a fading household pastime, but TV Guide’s digital business is hoping to start a new habit with a mobile app that makes it simple for people to track their favorite shows and discover new ones.
TV Guide Mobile, introduced this month, allows users to find and — with one click — watch shows, chat and share with friends, discover new shows, and keep up with their favorite actors. It has a watch-list feature that lets users organize favorite episodes or series, movies, sports and celebrities, and information on when and where they can watch them.
“It’s a 3-D experience where all your favorites are available in one place, compared to the linear experience of choices like on-demand or DVD,” said Christy Tanner, general manager and executive vice president of TV Guide Digital, which includes TVGuide.com.
Marrying data, fans and social networks, she said, stemmed from the company’s research on viewership. About 93 percent of viewers use streaming video, DVR and on-demand services, according to TV Guide, and 68 percent watch one to five hours of video each week on their mobile devices.
“This is designed for the way people want to watch now — anywhere, anytime,” said Ms. Tanner.
For example, fans of Sigourney Weaver, star of the “Political Animals” series, can check out her other shows or movies and where they are being shown. Users can click on a link to sites like Hulu or iTunes, or tag her name to get notifications and updates on when those programs are available.
The app, which is free, allows users to share what they are watching via social networks, a feature that is also available on TVGuide.com, where more than 500,000 people have set up watch lists. The Web site has recently been upgraded with most of the mobile app’s features.
Viewer check-ins, Ms. Tanner said, form a list of shows that users want to view, and could be used by the company to predict which shows will be popular. Last summer, eight of the 10 shows most flagged by viewers, like Fox’s “New Girl” and ABC’s “Revenge,” were later picked up for a full season.
“If this viewer interest is an indicator of success, that could change how networks evaluate renewing shows, and where marketers decide to place their money,” Ms. Tanner said.
Recently, shows like CBS’s “Elementary” and ABC’s “666 Park” are topping viewer lists. In the last week, 200,000 people have downloaded the mobile app, and 85,000 of those have set up a watch list, according to TV Guide figures.
TV Guide Digital, which gives users access to information about 300,000 shows, actors, sports personalities and teams, and movies, is not the only group trying to reach the television and video viewing market. Companies like GetGlue and Fanhattan have apps that let subscribers and other viewers find programs.
TV Guide Digital’s approach integrates program grids, news and information, and social networking, said Mike Vorhaus, president of Magid Advisors, the consulting unit of Frank N. Magid Associates.
“In the old days, it was all about the information, what was on and what time,” Mr. Vorhaus said. “Now it’s not just data; it’s more about being searchable and a platform for fans to chat, to post and to share.“That makes it more manageable and easier to create a community because people only have to go to one place,” he said.
For advertisers, TV Guide Mobile is offering video showcases, branded content and sponsorships. Among the advertisers are Little Caesar’s Pizza, Pizza Hut, Ford, Sony and State Farm.
USA Network, which carries “Political Animals,” is one of the advertisers that also have content partnerships. Its platform called Character Chatter aggregates real-time posts about television shows from Twitter and other social media on TVGuide.com.
“Viewers can stay on TV Guide sites and feel like they are at a digital water cooler talking about the show,” said Jesse Redniss, USA’s senior vice president for digital products. “And TV Guide promotes our shows from its sites, and that expands the universe of people who want to see our shows.”
TV Guide Digital was started in 2006, and is separate from TV Guide Network and TV Guide magazine. Over the last six years, TV Guide Digital’s audience has grown to 24 million a month from 4.6 million, divided almost evenly between men and women. About 45 percent of users are under 35.
While TV Guide, introduced nearly 60 years ago, is a household name, its recent history has been turbulent. In 2008, TV Guide magazine was bought for $1 by Open Gate Capital, a private equity group. TVGuide.com, TV Guide Mobile and the TV Guide brand are owned by the joint venture partners Lionsgate and JPMorgan Chase’s private equity firm, One Equity Partners.
Viewers can watch their shows on most cable and satellite providers, and on TV Guide Digital’s streaming partners: ABC, ABC Family, CW, Hulu Plus, HBO GO and iTunes. So far, Netflix is not among them.