has introduced a new iPad app designed to create more engaging, interactive experiences around TV. Like other social TV apps, BeeTV hopes to tap into the large group of potential users that connect with each other on the second screen while watching TV — whether that second screen be a mobile phone or a tablet device. Also like some other TV apps, BeeTV mixes a combination of checkins and social conversations online. But what sets BeeTV apart is its approach to recommendations.
Once a user has logged in with Facebook and chosen his TV provider, BeeTV makes recommendations based on his or her favorites, also providing a list of live and upcoming shows that a user might be interested in. Users can set alerts and invite friends to watch shows with them, as well as strike up conversations with each other around episodes that they’re watching. Each program has its own individual show page with tons of information about the cast and crew. From that page, users can rate or comment, with updates being fed into the app itself, as well as to social networks that the user has chosen to share with.
BeeTV was founded in 2007 and got its start as a social recommendation engine that was being pitched to service providers as a way to connect their subscribers to new content. The company raised $8 million to pursue that goal, but found that the operator sales cycle was much too long, and ultimately hampered innovation. As a result, co-founder and CTO Yaniv Solnik decided to spin out the technology and start a consumer-facing app business instead.
Now Solnik is the CEO and has raised $1.5 million from Italian VC firm Innogest to fund the newest iteration of BeeTV’s business. The company currently has about 10 employees, with its R&D operations in Israel and an eye toward starting an office in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Currently, the app relies on affiliate merchandising revenue from digital stores like iTunes and Amazon for revenue, but BeeTV plans to monetize the app through advertising and other sources. Solnick sees an opportunity for a link between ads that appear on the TV and calls to action on the second screen. Given BeeTV’s ability to recommend new shows, Solnick also believes that the app could offer up sponsored show recommendations to users.
For now, though, the name of the game is just getting users. The BeeTV iPad app is available on the Apple App Store now, with plans to create apps for handsets like the iPhone and Android mobile devices soon.