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It’s a lot more fun to voice your sports trash talk, instead of just typing it out. With that in mind, Tok.tv has embarked upon building a different type of second-screen app.
In addition to delivering a variety of sports stats — which you’d expect from a companion sports TV app at this point — Tok.tv’s mobile apps center on voice chat, allowing up to four remote people to mimic the experience of watching a game together.
Just in time for the start of this year’s baseball season, the company has released an updated version of its Tok Baseball iPad app, which adds pre- and post-game statistics like lineup predictions and recaps. Tok.tv also revealed that it has raised $400,000 in angel funding from several investors, including Eric Klein.
“We found voice is the medium to generate emotion, people don’t want to type home run, they want to yell home run,” said Tok.tv’s founder and chief executive Fabrizio Capobianco in an interview with VentureBeat.
After founding and spending eight years as the CEO of the white-label cloud services company Funambol, Capobianco said he was looking for a new challenge (he still serves as Funambol’s president and chairman). Specifically, he wanted to follow a trend that’s “big but not too early.”
Capobianco had an inkling that second-screen apps would be huge. After spending a year-and-a-half dwelling on the issue (and watching lots of TV), he came up with the notion of adding voice to the traditional second-screen experience — something that he thinks is ideal for live events like sports.
“I concluded that everything else out there sucked,” Capobianco added.
The Tok Baseball app basically functions like an evolved scoreboard, allowing you to easily keep track of everything happening during a game. The voice functionality serves as a passive way to stay in touch with your friends — you don’t have to be distracted by typing in text, or remember to submit a new post.
The biggest second-screen apps right now — GetGlue, Miso, and IntoNow — focus heavily on building a community around television content. GetGlue and Miso both center on “checking-in” to TV programming, while IntoNow functions a lot like the music app Shazam by automatically detecting what you’re watching and showing you relevant information. While great for television dramas, those apps don’t attempt to replicate the live viewing experience for sports events, which gives Tok.tv room to make an impact.
Capobianco tells me that Tok.tv tested its functionality with the last baseball season and the recent Academy Awards, which were “surprisingly successful.” He believes the company’s technology could also serve as a valuable tool for advertisers.
“In 57 minutes, you have four cycles of commercials,” he said. “The problem with TV advertising has always been you’re spending something like $1 million for a Super Bowl ad, and yet you don’t know anything about who’s watching it… You can’t give them anything to do, there’s no action tied to the ad.”
Since Tok.tv users are following an event live, advertisers could potentially coordinate their ads to finally do something with those active watchers.
Looking ahead, Capobianco says Tok.tv is working on adding voice functionality before and after sports games (right now it’s mainly useful during games). The San Francisco-based company is planning to begin raising another round in the second quarter.
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