Using Twitter chatter to create a conversational environment, tweetTV is working to make TV watching a truly social experience
A Q&A with tweetTV founder and CEO Bradley Markham. The Austin, Texas-based company was founded in 2009 and last week announced it has raised $750K in funding from Angel investor Joe Kalfa.
SUB: Please describe what tweetTV is, and the value proposition you offer to TV watchers.
Markham: tweetTV helps answer the question “What are people watching on TV right now?” Our TV discovery tools help people put the social popularity of TV shows into a real-time context. And, we’re able to curate the chatter happening on Twitter beyond generic hashtags to create real conversations, providing such tools as filters, multi-user video chat, and fan polls to enhance the social TV watcher’s ability to engage with others as they watch TV.
SUB: Who are your target users?
Markham: Over 1 billion tweets about TV were sent on Twitter last year. But of those, the vast majority of tweets never get a reply. So people are tweeting about what they’re watching on TV but never getting any feedback, the loop is closed at the end of a tweet. We’re opening up that loop to facilitate a real, social experience for people who want to tweet about TV as they’re watching—an experience with conversational value.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Markham: There are a myriad of social TV related startups out there, all doing a similar things to perpetuate the notion of “Social TV” in a slightly different way. But at the risk of sounding trite, I believe the biggest competition we have is the trepidation of TV networks to recognize the value of creating content geared toward social TV. This is changing, as some studies are coming in that show social activity can drive TV ratings, but content creators still have a lot of catching up to do to truly integrate and embrace a social experience.
SUB: What differentiates tweetTV from the competition?
Markham: First, no other social TV company offers a real-time TV discovery tool to find currently airing programs ranked by social popularity, filtered by any combination of genre and network. It is really a revolutionary TV discovery tool if used properly. And our service is cloud based so our tweet rooms for TV programs are embeddable like YouTube videos—any blog or website can easily add a tweetTV-branded social layer to facilitate real-time interaction among their visitors.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for tweetTV? Was there an “aha” moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Markham: In 2009, we realized that we could group trends on Twitter into channels to show how similar topics within verticals trend against each other. The logical progression of that idea led us to TV-especially since there was already a critical mass of tweets related to TV happening on Twitter.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
Markham: We started the project as e.tv but that domain name was stolen—see an interesting article in Inc. magazine that references that theft. And, integrating localized TV programming information for the thousands of local TV providers in the U.S., all with different lineups, is very time consuming and the data is expensive.
SUB: You just raised $750K in Angel funding. What are your plans for the funds?
Markham: We’re lucky enough to have built a very robust backend and beta website to power our service, with an architecture to power future efforts. Some of those efforts include mobile apps, and a rewards program to incent TV conversation to name a couple.
SUB: Do you plan to raise more outside funding in the near future?
Markham: We’re all set for now, but we’ve had a lot of interest from VCs who are interested in future raises.
SUB: What are your goals for tweetTV over the next year or so?
Markham: We have a big marketing push coming later this spring and summer with thousands of social influencers who will promote tweetTV. So we’re heads down trying to create mobile apps and build out features to make sure we’re ready when the traffic comes.
tweetTV – www.tweet.tv