Social TV App Peel Adds Real-Time Cheering To American Idol

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There are loads of startups trying to build a social TV experience that goes beyond checking in to your favorite TV shows. Now social TV app Peel is taking a stab at it, and it’s aiming at one show in particular: American Idol.

The new version of the Peel app (which, to be clear, is not officially connected to the show) will provide a parallel experience as you watch. As each contestant takes the stage, you can tap the screen to either boo or cheer them — not just once, but as many times as you want. Maybe one cheer for their song choice, and then a boo as they stumble, and then three cheers as they hit a particularly tough note. A sliding bar shows how much the entire participating audience has booed and cheered, and you can boo and cheer the judges as they rate the singers. Plus, there’s a button to tweet your thoughts as you follow along.

Once one singer finishes, the app automatically slides the next contestant in place for the same treatment. (Apparently this synchronization is achieved through the amazing technology of having someone watching the live show on the East Coast and hitting a button as each new singer goes on — the timing is then transposed to other time zones.) After the voting is done, the results are displayed in a leaderboard, showing how the performers stacked up against each other, and with iTunes links to download the songs.

Vice president of marketing Scott Ellis demonstrated the app for me last week. He says the company is trying to strike a balance, creating an app that’s engaging but not so much so that it completely distracts you from the actual TV. This initial attempt is more on the simple side, and over time, Peel will probably add more features. For example, Ellis says he’d like to add a button allowing people to cast their vote for their favorite contestant on American Idol itself (i.e., determining the real winner, not just the one in Peel). The company could also add slides with additional content for various commercials, as one possible monetization strategy.

This experience could be extended to other competitive reality shows too — Ellis says Dancing With The Stars is the next likely candidate. However, he also says the format might be tweaked to fit with other television genres as well, like drama.

You can download the Peel iPhone app here.