By now, you’ve undoubtedly heard of Viggle, the TV check-in app that gives you rewards for watching. In just over a year, Viggle raised enough industry interest to warrant a $70 million deal with GetGlue, but the deal fell through, and GetGlue suddenly got some snazzy (and long-awaited) updates that make it even more of a social TV heavyweight. It now includes a “rewards” system that seems to be encroaching on Viggle’s turf. So does that leave Viggle in second place?

Viggle Social TV

First, a little refresher for those who are shaky on what Viggle does. The heart of the app is an audio recognition function that can tell what you’re watching on TV, just by having it “listen” for a few seconds. Sure, Shazam had been doing the same thing with songs for a year or two when Viggle debuted at the beginning of 2012, but it’s a big deal to have an app that could do it with TV shows.

The benefit for social TV was immediately obvious; a “frictionless” check-in means that viewers don’t need to waste time typing or clicking multiple buttons. Just one tap, and you’re checked in. You can opt to automatically spread the news to your social media circles, or you can jump into the built-in show chat right on the Viggle app itself. You also get the ability to sync your viewing guide to your TV provider’s lineup, and set up all of the reminders you want. Okay, so this is not beyond the capabilities of a number of Social TV apps, but Viggle ties all of these functions into one very different and compelling core service.

Viggle’s unique twist is the rewards it provides. You get Viggle points for simply watching TV; the audio check-in doubles as a verification that you’re really watching. In addition, Viggle offers plenty of Bonus Point opportunities for watching specific shows or through interactive extras, such as watching videos, playing quizzes and games, or My Guy fantasy football and basketball.

Viggle perks for watchingThere are many reward options, from the very basic (Viggle T-shirts) to the very extraordinary (4-day, 5-night Caribbean cruise). The majority of the rewards come in the form of gift cards, with a wide variety of vendors such as Starbucks, Papa John’s, Lowes, Travelocity, and many more. Interestingly, you can also convert your points into charitable contributions–a donation to the Red Cross, for example.

While there are plenty of online loyalty programs and apps, Viggle is the only one that has addressed some very real worries among the TV industry–namely, how to keep people’s attention when they’re using their mobile devices, and how to make that second screen really work for them. The Viggle  Bonus Points feature is one of the best new show discovery tools that TV has right now; no matter how good the reviews or previews may be, there’s nothing like getting paid to watch a new show.

TV show fan service, social engagement, new show discovery, and advertiser connections are all built into the app, which makes one wonder if Viggle has far more possibilities than it currently offers. After a year of success, you’d expect that show producers, advertisers, and Nielsen itself would be lining up to partner with Viggle. Yet the only industry connection has come from DIRECTV, with some bonus rewards and discounts.

Time doesn’t stand still. Since Viggle came out, we’ve seen such apps  as IntoNow, is based on similar automatic “acoustic fingerprint” technologies. In fact, IntoNow’s SoundPrint is more accurate and has a much bigger database than Viggle’s, supporting timeshifted and classic TV shows (Viggle is mostly limited to “live” programming). IntoNow also does the guide sync and social check-in-and-chat things that have made Viggle popular (as does pretty much every other second-screen app, including GetGlue). If you’re only looking for a way to inform and share your TV watching experience with social media friends, Viggle isn’t the only option, and it’s probably not even the best choice.

However, few second-screen apps have the compelling interactive content that Viggle offers; even IntoNow doesn’t offer the kinds of quizzes and fantasy sports options. And Viggle still has a big lead in the social TV loyalty field. While GetGlue’s stickers and discounts are a step towards competition, Viggle’s points system is winning over users with tangible goods already. That’s the kind of audience engagement that TV show producers want to see, and it’s anyone’s guess why more shows haven’t already jumped at the chance.

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