Fledging TV App GetGlue Gets MLB All-Star Deal, but No Airtime

Dominance of Facebook, Twitter Make It Harder for Check-in Service to Break Through on the Tube

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A social network that 's not Facebook or Twitter will get some love during Fox's broadcast of Major League Baseball's All-Star Game tonight. Well, sort of .

GetGlue, a mobile app for users to "check-in" to TV shows or other media and broadcast via their social networks what they're watching, is facilitating a promotion for Fox and Pepsi (a major sponsor of the network's new singing show "The X-Factor") -- great exposure for any startup. But while GetGlue will be doling out "X-Factor"- and Pepsi-branded "stickers" to viewers that check in to the game, it won't be getting any airtime.


GetGlue may be the original TV check-in app, but it shows how hard it is to muscle in on the territory of Twitter and Facebook, which reap millions in free TV exposure from networks hopeful that those social networks drive real-time tune-in. In last night's Home Run Derby, MLB had players tweeting and posting pictures from the field. ESPN, the derby broadcaster, even promoted the players' Twitter handles during the telecast.

Fox, on the other hand, won't be giving GetGlue any air-time, said Hardie Tankersley, VP-innovations for Fox Broadcasting. Instead, viewers who want the stickers that feature the game, Fox, "X-Factor" and Pepsi will be directed to Fox.com to check-in there. But because GetGlue will facilitate those check-ins, Fox and its broadcast will get a little bit of real estate in viewers' Facebook or Twitter feeds. GetGlue, in return, will be mentioned on Fox.com and on social networks, just not during precious air-time.

"We just have a general policy to not promote other brands and services on our air because the business we're in is selling our air," said Mr. Tankersley. "The advertisers who are buying our airtime need to see that value. We don't give it away easily." Accordingly, Fox is also pretty limited in calling out Twitter and Facebook.

So far, cable has been most aggressive in using hashtags and fan pages to promote shows. GetGlue has appeared in promotions on the lower-third of the screen for Travel Channel, Discovery and BBC America. CNN's Anderson Cooper mentioned GetGlue on-air to promote a program with the startup for his show. Bravo gave Foursquare an entire spot promoting that mobile location service.

It's a tricky spot for a startup that 's entirely designed to get viewers to spread the word about the shows they watch on TV to their friends and followers online. GetGlue so far has 1.3 million registered users and 7 million check-ins in June, the company reports. High-volume events include 40,000 check-ins during the premier of HBO's "True Blood" and 31,000 check-ins during the Oscars. Late last year, GetGlue raised $6 million in funding led by Time Warner Investments, with participation from existing investors RRE Ventures and Union Square Ventures.

"The big value for us in partnering with a service like GetGlue is reducing the friction for viewers to share what they're watching with their social networks," Mr. Tankersley said. But that 's assuming viewers know about the app without the broadcast network's help. Right now, GetGlue's compiling a study about how on-air mentions affect the volume of check-ins, said CEO and founder Alex Iskold. Early results show that check-ins increased 40% after one show promoted the service on-air.

"Once we publish that kind of data, more networks will be willing to promote GetGlue," he said.

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