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January 27, 2021
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News + Views

Social Guide Pioneers Community TV

By Lisa M. Collins
Sean Casey pioneers the integration of social web communication and TV viewing
Photo by Joshua Kristal

Sean Casey might revolutionize the way you watch TV.

No more lonely viewing sessions on the couch. No more scrolling with your remote through hundreds of channels on the cable guide, searching for what’s good.

In April, Casey, a Brooklyn Heights web developer and TV writer/producer, launched Social Guide—the first live, online, crowd-sourced TV guide that illustrates in an easy-to-view fashion not only what’s playing right now, but also lists the most popular shows on TV, based on Twitter and Facebook comments, in real-time. groups TV shows into several categories, including movies, series and reality, and makes watching TV a group event. While watching a show, while logged onto Social Guide, you can see what people, celebrities, news and sports casters and even the actors and athletes themselves are saying about that show or sporting event. Social Guide also allows you to set up chat groups with your friends, so you can discuss a show or event, as it’s happening.

Investors including Alex Zubillaga, the former head of digital strategy at Warner Music, pumped $1.5 million into Casey’s company in April. In July, Social Guide’s iPhone application launched, and in August, Social Guide rolled out the Social 100, a listing of the top 100 most “social” shows on TV, based on number of Twitter and Facebook comments about the show (In the last month, the most “social” TV show, according to Social Guide, was Family Guy, with 276,320 comments).

The site has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, the Hollywood Reporter and the N.Y. Post, among others.

I visited Casey recently in his cavernous Dumbo office, sparsely decorated by a cluster of desks, a maze of wires and a white board covered in notes. Casey’s black dog, Shay, patrols the space.

Casey says the idea for Social Guide came to him while he was watching his favorite series, The Wire.

“When I would watch The Wire at 10 p.m. on Sunday night on HBO, I’d sit and text with my friend in Connecticut and my friend in San Francisco and another friend, and we’d have this conversation,” Casey said “Our conversation was always one-to-one, nobody could see it. I became interested in creating a platform where people could share a TV experience.”

With, “we’re bringing the social conversation happening around a TV show and putting it on your laptop or in the palm of your hand. You can watch your show with the people next door, or with people across the country,” Casey says.

He’s got some crazy stats: Casey says the latest studies show 300 million Americans watch 30 hours per week of TV, and three of five people use a phone or computer while watching the tube.

When the idea popped into Casey’s head for Social Guide, he started looking at Facebook and Twitter postings, and found that his friends were talking about TV. He developed a proprietary system for tracking comments about TV shows on Twitter and Facebook, and partnered with Tribune Media Company to get TV listings.

Casey’s career has been mostly in web—he worked for iVillage, building and managing the marketing of applications such as baby name finders and pregnancy calendars, and had a variety of other interactive media jobs. He wrote and produced shows for VH1 and Discovery, including a show called, “The Fabulous Life Of…”

Since January, Casey and his team, including a network of web developers from Poland, have collected 100 million comments by 10 million Twitterers (is that a word?) discussing 24,000 TV shows.

Twitter has 200 million users, and it’s big with TV—notice all the news casters, celebrities such as Anderson Cooper, Oprah and NBA stars, and NBC’s singing contest, The Voice, encouraging viewers to follow on Twitter.

“TV has really embraced Twitter,” Casey says. “We’re bullish on the relationship.”

While Social Guide has a clear use for the average TV viewer, Casey says his firm has a separate goal: Casey is gathering data on people who are passionate about shows, and people who tweet (and publicly comment on Facebook) about TV.

Eventually, Casey says, the body of data collected by Social Guide could be very useful to Networks and Cable channels, as a way to learn about their audience. Nielsen ratings, those mysterious boxes scattered throughout the country, tracking TV viewership, might soon have a rival: Twitterers voting and weighing in on favorite shows.

“The networks can see their live audience as the show is airing.”

In this way, a random person with hundreds of Twitter followers or Facebook friends can drive traffic to shows, becoming commodities in and of themselves.

“We are only at the beginning of this,” Casey says, a twinkle in his eye.

Read more in the Los Angeles Times

** Post Script: Casey is one-half of a dynamic Brooklyn couple. His wife, Emelie Kihlstrom, is a principal in South Brooklyn’s hottest new restaurant, Colonie.


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