“Shazam”ing Interactive Content on TVs

June 24, 2011

10:00 am

With over 150MM users, many of you have likely used a service called Shazam.  They were the pioneers of song identification by allowing people to hold their phone up to a song and find out the artist and title of that song.   It was quite popular but the model was typically to ding the user $1-$2 each time they wanted to tag the song.  (And apparently, it wasn’t able to recognize butchered karaoke versions of songs – which in my view, contradictory to others, validated their technology).  Since the app craze struck a few years ago, Shazam has ramped up its user base, added a paid app model and is installed on over 45MM smartphones and tablets in the U.S.

The company has recently announced a new $32MM round of funding to help propel their new push into the TV market.  Shazam has already partnered with the likes of MTV and NBC Universal to embed Shazam logos into shows as well as within ads.  The app recognizes the audio of the show or ad and enables the user to unlock special content related to the on-screen content.

The actual process of enabling mobile interaction with TVs has primarily been through premium SMS (i.e. American Idol voting), but it hasn’t taken off in helping broadcasters and advertisers serve additional content to mobile devices.  Shazam’s taking a new approach and utilizing their audio tagging technology to make the process easier for consumers to use their phone to simply tap a button and get content, rather than having to send a text message to a shortcode.

QR codes have become popular at retailers who are trying to help consumers gather more information and feedback on an item before they purchase.  CNN took this to the TV screen by displaying a QR code during the recent Republican Presidential debate.   The number of tags during the broadcast hasn’t been made public, but I don’t see QR codes as being conducive to a fluid environment like TV.  The user has to see the QR code displayed on the TV and decide to tag it, launch a QR reader, line up the reader to the code, and do it within the short duration the code is on screen.  Doable? Yes.  Clunky user experience? Definitely yes.

To me, the Shazam audio listening process is much simpler for the consumer.  They are also able to leverage their brand and existing installed base of app users to differentiate themselves to TV networks that are actively trying to make their shows more interactive in today’s  media-crazed world.

You can’t watch a show or ad these days without seeing a Twitter handle or Facebook URL embedded somewhere.   It’s clear the next phase of TV programming will heavily lean on driving interactions with shows and ads both during and after a broadcast.  It will be interesting to see how much success QR codes and these Shazam-type services will have in helping brands generate more 1-1 interactions with their consumers in a traditional 1-many TV environment.

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Anuj Agrawal (@anujagra) is a digital media enthusiast in the DC area, with a passion for understanding what makes consumers tick. From the fundamentals of designing products that are engaging to understanding the psychology of the buying process, he has helped companies develop innovative consumer experiences.

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