Shazam has long been an essential companion to the radio, tagging songs so that anyone can track down what they are listening to at any time.
Now Shazam is pursuing the television market, launching a major update to its app that will enable its 80 million users in the U.S. to tag any TV program on any channel.
“We’re still very much a music company, but we’ve squarely moved into the companion app space,” Doug Garland, chief revenue office of Shazam, told TheWrap. “Now you can tag any show and what you’ll get back is a rich experience that gets you more engaged with TV programming, more invested with the show. “
By tagging a show, users can not only identify what the show is, but access cast information and celebrity news, play trivia, engage with other viewers on social media and identify the music being used.
Shazam will pull celebrity news from 140 different sources, and leverage resources like IMDb to augment its content offerings.
“You’ll see people engage with a show while its on air, but I don’t necessarily think it’ll be in a way where you distract them from the show,” Garland said. “It’s a buzz tidbit, a mini content snack. You get more invested in the show the next time you watch.”
Shazam has partnered with specific shows and partners in the past, such as the Super Bowl and the Olympics, but this marks a major expansion of its Shazam for TV initiative, one the company hopes will make it a ubiquitous appendage for viewers of the silver screen.
Over the past couple of years, dozens of companies have entered the TV companion — or "second screen" — space, hoping to capitalize on the growing number of consumers with smartphones and tablets. Since TV viewers are on other devices while watching television, networks have a new platform for self-promotion, and app developers have a new place to sell advertising.
Yet even the most popular, such as GetGlue and Yahoo’s IntoNow, have only amassed audiences of a few million. Each service offers a different “second screen” experience, causing even those within the industry to acknowledge the need for consolidation and standardization.
This is an opportunity Shazam hopes to exploit, as its massive user base — 250 million worldwide, 80 million in the U.S. — gives it scale like no other.
“Nobody else out there in the TV companion space that has the reach we do,” Garland said. He noted that the company adds two million users a week and processes upwards of 10 million tags a week.
Scale actually delayed Shazam’s move into the TV space. Its music tagging software utilizes a library of existing sound fingerprints. Tagging live TV demanded a different kind of audio recognition technology.
“I liken it to my days at Google,” Garland said. “When we thought about doing things at Google, we couldn’t think about doing it for handful of users, we had to think for millions and millions of users.”
Whether those millions of users are as interested in tagging TV as music will determine the future of Shazam.