Philo, a New Social TV Service Featuring Interactive Games, Launches on iPhone and Web

--Google Ventures Invests in Bazaar Labs' Miso Social TV Service

A Los Angeles-based start-up called Philo (in honor of Philo T. Farnsworth, one of the inventors of television) officially launched its flagship social TV service Wednesday. The company bills the service, which is offered via a free iPhone app (note: a Web version is also available at http://www.playphilo.com, and the company says that Android and BlackBerry versions will be available shortly), as "combin[ing] television with the power of social media to create a real-time, multiscreen, and truly interactive user experience," and as "turn[ing] every episode of every television series into an instantaneous group version of 'Mystery Science Theater 3000' for the user and their friends."

According to the company, the Philo iPhone app, which is available in the Apple App store, allows users to "check in" to and comment on TV programs, and interact with friends and other viewers. Users' comments appear as a feed on the service, and users also have the option of broadcasting their check-ins and comments (with links back to the service) to Facebook and Twitter--which, according to the company, means that "Philo serves as a content delivery tool for the user's social media connections--and as a promotion for television networks and producers, driving tune-in and ratings." Like two other recently announced social TV services, Bazaar Labs' Miso and Comcast's Tunerfish (see the articles published on itvt.com, May 25th and May 24th, Philo includes various interactive gaming elements--among other things, the company says, allowing users to score points and unlock prizes as they meet up with their friends and check in to shows. The service is also touted by the company as facilitating content discovery--allowing users to "browse around television shows and see what your friends are watching and saying, what's popular, what's on that you may like based on what you've watched." Users can also "scroll through a guide to see what else is on," Philo adds.

According to Philo, it has signed deals with two major production companies--Studio Lambert ("Undercover Boss") and Donald Trump Productions ("The Apprentice")--that will see it powering cross-promotional initiatives for their respective series. The company says that it will be announcing more deals in the coming weeks.

Philo's chief creative officer is self-described "reality czar," Greg Goldman, former executive director of alternative series and specials for ABC ("The Bachelor," "Wife Swap") and former EVP of development and executive producer at RDF USA ("Don't Forget the Lyrics," "Shaq's Big Challenge"). "For the first time in 15 years, television ratings are up--and our research attributes those gains to the power of social media," Goldman said in a prepared statement. "Philo combines everything that's great about watching TV among friends with everything we all love about social media. Philo is the most important thing to happen to television since the remote control."

In related news: Bazaar Labs, the company behind rival social TV service Miso, which last week announced that it had secured seed financing from a group of investors that includes Keith Rabois and Jawed Karim, and ex-Googlers, Georges Harik, Richard Chen, Thomas Korte, Kurt Abrahamson and others, revealed in a posting on its corporate blog, Wednesday, that it has received an investment from Google Ventures. As part of the investment deal, Google Ventures partner, Joe Kraus, will work with the company in an advisory role.


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