USA Network Taps Yap.tv for Branded Social TV App
NEW YORK – NBCUniversal’s USA Network has partnered with Yap.tv, a maker of a social TV guide app for mobile devices, to launch a USA-branded app for its shows and fans as it and other channels continue to expand the use of social media to reach and engage viewers.
The app is expected to become available in November and will be promoted by USA on the air and elsewhere, with the partners describing it as the latest step in the fusion of traditional TV and social media.
The companies said the free app will provide a platform that will feature social forums for popular USA original shows, such as Burn Notice, White Collar, Suits, Psych, Covert Affairs and others, for which the channel has already built social media offers. But the app will also look to engage fans around such acquired USA shows as NCIS.
It will blend the most popular features of USA’s social TV initiatives, including Character Chatter and its Facebook integration, instant polls, chat groups, cast photos and show rankings with Yap's animated show guide, which allows users to see what their friends are watching and what other fans are saying about their favorite shows on social media.
"USA will offer viewers an app to harness and amplify the social buzz around its series," the companies said. "Users will also be able to access a dynamic programming guide, view exclusive content, invite friends on Facebook and Twitter to the app as well as chat with other Yap.tv users all through one platform on all Apple mobile devices."
“We are constantly looking for ways to expand our reach and engage our fans not only through rich experiences, but across multiple platforms so that they can access our shows and engage with them wherever they are,” said Jesse Redniss, vp of digital for USA Network. "Yap.tv gives our fans an innovative platform for personalizing their interaction and engaging with content in ways that allow us to continually evolve our social TV experience.”
While USA has over the past year built its Character Chatter platform as its main conduit of community participation that allows people to meet and talk to other fans in real-time, the Yap partnership adds a new dimension.
"We are looking at this overarching offer with Yap as another fantastic tool with a beautiful design and ease of use," Redniss told The Hollywood Reporter. USA is in the process of compiling a research report on the effects of social media, but the executive cited a recent Nielsen report that showed that a 10 percent lift in social media activity can lead to a 1 percent increase in ratings.
Meanwhile, Yap said the USA deal will make it the first independent social TV developer to create a custom-branded version of its app for a major network. The company hopes that the USA app will be only its first industry partnership.
The partners didn’t disclose financial details, but Shawn Cunningham, founder and chief marketing officer of Yap, said the arrangement is based on an “ongoing relationship and financial component.” He didn't provide further specifics.
“We are launching our enterprise platform with USA as banner customer,” said Cunningham. “USA has probably done the best job at engaging fans already via social media. They are very much a leading player, but this deal allows them to leverage the social graph in a channel-wide experience and drive discovery and engagement beyond regular check-in services.” Creating a better way for USA to cross-pollinate and monetize its fans and add new ones are also among the goals.
Yap said it now wants to also provide other TV networks with an opportunity to engage with fans and options for additional ancillary profit. Yap, which Cunningham said has “hundreds of thousands of users” without providing a specific figure, has focused on developing an immersive social TV experience on mobile screens via a free app for the iPad, iPhone and iTouch to allow users to interact with members of their social graph about TV content.
Yap is one of many players in the social TV space, which includes such companies as GetGlue, which allow users to do check-ins for TV shows. However, Cunningham said that while other social TV players often average 1.5 sessions per week, Yap reaches three to five.
Over the summer, Yap unveiled version 3.0 of its app for Apple iOS devices, including the iPad 2. “Based on their own personalized settings - including television provider and favorite shows and channels - the user can surf what’s on TV by swiping and gesturing through high-resolution show graphics and animations using the new visual TV guide,” Yap said about its latest version back then. “Users can also browse by category filters, a social top 20 of the most talked about shows and see what their friends are watching in real-time.”
Under its current version, Yap is providing the latest tweets from fans and celebrities, as well as a live chat feature for all TV shows. “There is a better way to discover what’s on TV than the age-old, outdated guide button,” said Yap CEO Trevor Stout.
Yap, launched in 2010, has venture capital backing from Javelin Venture Partners and Blumberg Capital and is also advised by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.