Most of us spend more time on social networks than we ever did watching TV. But what if we wanted to combine both, mixing the laid-back attitude of watching a program with the content uploaded by friends on social networks?
That’s the idea behind Stevie: A “social TV” that creates shows based on the content on your social networks, with shows that have names like Music Non-Stop, The Comedy Strip, and Celeb TV.
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Stevie, an Israeli startup incorporated in October 2011 and hatched in the Microsoft Accelerator (startup incubator) in August, aggregates content like YouTube videos, photos, surveys, tweets and birthday announcements from content uploaded on social networks.
Algorithms, which the Stevie team calls the “Stevie Factor,” determine what is “interesting” content based on factors like friends, Twitter followers, country of residence, language, and interactions on these sites.
Founder and CEO Yael Givon believes that social media makes great television material. “In today’s world, news and social media content mixes on all screens and platforms. We think that the transfer of social media on screens is the next blockbuster,” she tells NoCamels.
Matching and sorting content to your liking
To set up a personal Stevie channel, users log into Stevie.com with their Facebook accounts and can subsequently link their Twitter username. The Stevie algorithm sorts through this social media information and displays what it thinks you will enjoy most, on different channels. The Stevie channels are updated with new material every 60-90 seconds. Stevie also recently introduced a new channel, called “US Election Channel,” to capture news and chatter surrounding the upcoming American presidential election.
Broadcasters today are moving towards allowing users to watch their content on other platforms than TV, such as on computers, smartphones and tablets. Similarly, Stevie users can watch the shows on multiple platforms. The system can be viewed passively on a computer monitor, by using a smartphone (android or iPhone) as a remote. Stevie also has a more interactive version, on the iPad, in which users can retweet, like, or share what appears on their Stevie stream.
“The content and usage scenario on each platform is influenced by the usage habits of that platform – so Stevie on the web and iPad is more interactive, while on TV it is completely hands off, lean back,” says Givon. Stevie has also recently signed a development deal with Xbox, to bring the Stevie system to Microsoft’s popular gaming platform.
But are people really ready to lean back in front of their computers like a TV? “We know that some of them [already] do,” says Givon. “like the people who put on YouTube playlists on their computer as a background, or people who have ‘YouTube parties’ with friends. These people will enjoy putting up Stevie because it’s more personal,” she explains.
“It is estimated that there are 10-20 million people that have their computer directly connected to their TV, and there are tens of millions of game consoles that are connected to TVs, that’ a lot of potential viewers,” Givon reasons.
“Your TV should know you”
In the future, Givon and her team hope to take the Stevie system one step further. “Right now, we can only aggregate [items] on your personal Facebook news feed, but in the future we want to bring in content that we know you like.”
“This would transform VOD (video on demand): what is the last thing you watched, what do you like based on your Facebook and social network life? It will bring your identity into TV programming.” As Givon puts it, the web knows your identity, so why shouldn’t your television?
Givon’s secret weapon, she says is husband and co-founder Gil Rimon. Rimon was tecnology editor for Israeli Newspaper Maariv and wrote a TV show called “The Link” on Israel’s Science Channel. He also co-founded and worked on several Israeli media startups. Yael Givon originally comes from a background in fine arts and was director of marketing for Israeli startup mirabilis’ ICQ messenger, and was later VP of Products for Speedbit, a download manager website.
Stevie has so far raised $300,000 in angel funding from angel investors, including Jeff Pulver and Gigi Levy.