8 great TV companion apps: Sky+ vs Sky Sports vs Virgin Media TV Anywhere vs Zeebox vs YouView vs Shazam vs Freeview HD TV Guide vs View21

They’re big in America, and now TV companion apps - also called second screen apps - are hitting the big time in the UK.

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What are TV companion apps?

The biggest TV companion apps don’t have any special links to TV: Twitter and Facebook are just convenient forums that proved perfect for discussing your favourite TV shows with friends and strangers.

Broadcasters love them: live comments mean live viewers, and for the commercial channels that means people are actually watching the ads. In the USA, audience ratings agency Nielsen is producing Twitter traffic charts as an alternative to traditional viewing figures.

The BBC loves Twitter because it’s a great measure of audience engagement, and a cheap way to fill dull moments on BBC Breakfast (also known as: “All of BBC Breakfast.”) It’s surprising there isn’t a Twitter client built into BBC iPlayer.

But app providers and broadcasters have spotted the potential of smartphones and tablets to go beyond the simple call-and-response singalong of social networks. In the UK, Zeebox is the king of these apps, but Google ‘TV companion app’ and you’ll find several competing apps are fighting for American users.

They’re integrating social networks into a richer experience, or turning your handheld device into an extension of your digital TV Box and replacement for your remote control.

Sky, Virgin Media, YouView and Freeview all have companion apps with a wide variety of features. We haven’t included Sky Go (link) because it’s really an extension of your subscription, not a companion.

There’s nothing for Freesat (an app is expected for Free Time from Freesat in 2013). Surprisingly few Freeview HD boxes have companion apps, but we’ve included the app for View21 recorder.

 

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