Shazam Maps App to 160 TV Nets


Shazam Entertainment, in a bid to become the default second-screen app for American TV viewers, is enabling its auto-content recognition features across live TV programming on more than 160 U.S. channels.

The U.K.-based company says it now has more than 250 million users worldwide -- a user base far larger than any other second-screen app. But Shazam is most widely known for its music-recognition features and to date it has only Shazam-enabled certain high-profile TV programs and a smattering of ads.

Now, the Shazam for TV service in the U.S. will recognize TV programming on more than 160 broadcast and cable networks at any time of day. The enhanced service will let Shazam users access cast details and photos, music in the show, celebrity gossip, trivia and links to additional information, as well as share and comment on shows via Facebook and Twitter.

“In the second-screen world, viewers want to watch the TV show so the challenge is how you bring additional experiences to them to complement that,” Shazam CEO Andrew Fisher said in an interview. “We don’t believe anybody owns that space right now.”

Of the 250 million users worldwide, about 80 million are in the U.S., numbers that represent people who have installed the app and used it at least once. Shazam does not disclose how many of those are actively using the app on a regular basis.

In a given week, about 54% of Shazam’s active user base uses the apps to try to identify music or programming on TV, according to chief revenue officer Doug Garland.

“That’s one of the reasons why we are expanding into television,” Garland said. “The initial use case was to discover music on TV. But until now we were only selectively enabling Shazam on TV, so you never kind of knew exactly which program would work.”

For local TV, however, Shazam for TV will only support programming in major markets or syndicated content. Garland notes, for example, that many local news broadcasts and local paid advertising programs will not be Shazam-able.

The opportunity to synchronize TV programming and advertising with content on mobile devices is potentially gigantic: About 70% of tablet owners and 68% of smartphone users use their devices while watching TV, according to a 2011 Nielsen study. A host of players are attempting to stand out in the crowded second-screen playing field, including Dijit, GetGlue, Miso, Peel, TV Guide Digital, Viggle, Yahoo’s IntoNow and Zeebox.

Shazam’s business model is to sell synchronized second-screen advertising to TV marketers, either directly or in partnership with networks. According to Garland, Shazam has worked with more than 140 advertisers.

By providing enhanced content for programming on 160-plus channels, Shazam is hoping to “provide great, high-utility experiences for consumers,” Garland said, working in some cases with networks and other content creators. The idea is that by boosting usage, Shazam can convince advertisers to buy enabling features for their existing TV spots.

In the past year, Shazam has worked with several TV networks to make their broadcasts interactive on second-screen devices, including with NBCUniversal for the 2012 London Olympic Games and Super Bowl XLVI, American Idol on Fox, the ESPN X Games, and the U.S. Open with CBS and IBM. During the closing ceremony of the Olympics, more than 1 million people used Shazam to ID the musical acts, according to Shazam.

The enhanced Shazam for TV will let users identify the music featured in whatever people are watching, based on its 20-plus million song database; access cast and show information from IMDB, Wikipedia and other sources; read celebrity gossip culled from more than 140 websites; and provides links to show the official sites of the shows. Rovi provides the basic program information.

“Interactive TV has been out there for a long time and it’s never achieved scale,” Garland said. With 110 million smartphone users in the U.S. as of June 2012 (according to comScore), “that’s scale… We are set to operate at scale and now what we finally have is a breadth of coverage in TV.”

Shazam had to substantially build out its infrastructure to support live TV across the 160 networks. The audio-fingerprinting data is stored for at least a week to be able to recognize content recorded on DVRs. The company ingests several broadcast feeds, and “frankly we are getting it ahead of time before cable and satellite viewers get it,” Garland said.

In the future, Shazam could embed its service directly into set-top boxes to enable the content-recognition service directly through the TV. At the 2012 Cable Show in May, Shazam showed the service embedded in Comcast’s X1 set-top box.

Meanwhile, Shazam announced it has enhanced sharing features for iPhone, iPod touch, iPad and Android devices. When users activate the “friends” feature in the app, they will be able to see what their Facebook friends are tagging and will be able to make comments about their friends’ tags in the app.

In addition, with the activation, people’s tags will appear on their Facebook profile in their timeline, enabling people to discuss with their friends what they are watching or listening to. Social sharing via Twitter and Google+ is also available.

Shazam, based in London, says it adds about 2 million more new users each week. The company’s app is available free to download from the Apple iTunes App StoreGoogle Play, the Amazon App Store, AT&T’s AppCenterVerizon VCast app storeNokia StoreWindows Phone MarketplaceBlackBerry App World and GetJar.

The expansion of Shazam for TV is U.S. specific, although the company has started to Shazam-enable TV ads in the U.K. and Europe.