Startup GetGlue is a two-year-old social network for entertainment lovers. Today, it’s using more than 500 million data points on TV viewers’ behaviors, attitudes, and preferences to launch a new application for the iPad to give people a better way to discover what to watch.

GetGlue HD, as the experience is called, is both a dynamic guide for television watching that pivots around each person’s tastes and a second-screen assistant for following favorite shows.

Until now, GetGlue has been largely focused on encouraging TV fanatics to check in to what they’re watching and share the experience with friends. The New York-based startup has struggled to find an audience interested its programming, despite attracting $12 million in support from top-notch investors at the start of the year. The service currently has just 3 million users.

The GetGlue HD application for iPad, five months in the making, seeks to make the experience far more compelling for the average person by tapping into the treasure trove of entertainment data the startup has collected in the past two years.

“At the beginning of this year, we sat down and said, ‘How can we return the value of all this data back to our community? What can we do now that we know so much about how people connect around TV?’,” GetGlue founder and CEO Alex Iskold told VentureBeat. “We realized that we were in a position to re-imagine how people discover things both on the second screen and on the first screen.”

The new HD application consists of two main parts — the guide and the feed — to address content discovery on television and iPad screens.

Above: The guide

The guide is GetGlue’s way of rethinking the traditional TV guide. It highlights new episodes for shows that a person has expressed interest in and features the user’s favorite movies currently appearing on air; it also recommends new selections to watch and connects to Netflix, iTunes, and Amazon.

The guide is a right-now entity with a list of what to watch in the moment, though it also summarizes must-see upcoming content such as season premieres and finales, major television events, awards shows, and movies soon to arrive in theaters. It integrates with cable providers for accurate date, time, and channel listings, and ranks and prioritizes content by a person’s tastes. It even includes scores from sporting events.

The guide is also designed to highlight the best of GetGlue’s existing social features.

“This is the first social guide in TV … and it’s a very cool experience,” Iskold said. “For each show, you can see which of your friends are watching it right now, and you can see what’s trending overall with GetGlue’s community.”

The feed is a mix of friends’ relevant activities on GetGlue alongside the status updates, as sourced from official social channels, associated with a person’s favorite shows. Each show has its own feed, visible to users after they check in to a particular piece of content.

Perhaps most interesting is that check-ins have faded into the background of an experience that now pivots around discovery. Check-ins haven’t been deemphasized, Iskold insisted, but they’re clearly more like the plumbing that powers the app and less the reason to open and use GetGlue HD.

This seems like a smart move. Entertainment check-ins or fancy TV tags in the case of competitor IntoNow, owned by Yahoo, do little to add to a person’s enjoyment of content. Even Iskold admitted as much.

“We need to give people more utility, because check-ins are fun but they’re not a utility,” he said. “People want more content.”

If GetGlue has done its job right, the HD application should be what you instinctively pick up before, during, and after every TV viewing experience.

GetGlue will follow the iPad release with similar HD apps this fall for iPhone, Android, and the web.

Photo credit: kotofoto/Flickr