GetGlue CEO out as company fights for second-screen relevance

By Erin Griffith , written on October 29, 2013

From The News Desk

Twitter's recent push into TV market does not bode well for startups whose entire premise is "Tweets about TV." The category's biggest player, GetGlue, has removed its founder and CEO, Alex Iskold, as it assesses its place in the market.

Two years ago, when "second screen" was a hot buzzword, the category was littered with apps designed to compliment TV programming. GetGlue was the category leader, followed by Miso, Philo, Loyalize, Watchpoints, Tunerfish, IntoNow and TV Tune-In.

At the time, it was exciting, because, you might recall, Twitter hadn't gotten its act together yet. The company had just hired Chief Revenue Officer Adam Bain figure out how Twitter might make money. It still wasn't even clear whether Twitter would become a sustainable business, and if so, what form that business might take. The company was still fighting off Fail Whales; it was nowhere near ready to take on a big, serious business partnerships with a TV broadcaster.

Fast forward two years and the company has matured. Twitter is making money any way it can ahead of its IPO, and it's not going to leave a massive category like TV on the table. The company announced a partnership with Comcast, which allows users to view, record, or rent television shows, buy movie tickets, and set reminders for times of shows from any NBC Universal channel, all within Twitter's app.

Most second screen apps saw this coming and jumped ship early. Here's how this crowded market shook out:

  • Three-month old startup IntoNow sold to Yahoo for $30 million at the peak of second screen fever.
  • Miso, which raised $6 million, pivoted and sold to Dijit Media.
  • Philo, which raised $6.3 million, sold to LocalResponse.
  • Loyalize, funded by debt, sold to Viggle.
  • TV Tune-In was shut down after parent company Rogue Paper sold to EarthSearch Communications.
  • Watchpoints is no longer online. I can't find any record of a sale or shut-down, making its last tweet, sent in September of 2011, kinda sad.

— Watchpoints (@watchpoints) September 23, 2011 From a startup perspective, that leaves GetGlue and Zeebox, a new entrant from UK, to prove that second-screen viewing is, in fact, a category. GetGlue has raised the most money and, with 4.5 million users, gained the most traction. But 4.5 million registered users (1.6 million monthly active visitors) is still peanuts when it comes to scaling an audience with social media.

GetGlue decided selling was a better option. In November 2012, GetGlue announced it would sell to Viggle, a loyalty rewards company focused on TV viewers, for $60 million in cash and stock. Viggle is actually publicly traded on the over-the-counter market. The company has a market cap of $44.33 million.

But in January, the deal fell apart after Viggle was unable to secure debt financing for the deal. Viggle plaid GetGlue a $500,000 break-up fee and offered the press a quote that papered over its failure to close the deal:

During the time we started talking to GetGlue about an acquisition and since the merger agreement was signed in November, we have seen impressive growth in our business, Viggle's CEO Robert F. X. Sillerman said.
Ouch. He may as well have said, We realized we can build this thing just as easily on our own. When Twitter made its formal move into TV with the Comcast partnership, things looked even dicier.

In September, GetGlue updated its iPhone app with discovery and TV guide features. GetGlue founder and CEO Alex Iskold acknowledged Twitter's move to Variety, “We are in direct competition with Twitter. They have clearly pivoted into the TV space.”

Now, PandoDaily has learned that Iskold has been removed from the company. Evan Krauss, who GetGlue hired as its President in June, is running the company as it figures out its next move. Krauss was formerly EVP of ad sales for Shazam. Iskold, who did not respond to a request for comment, remains involved with GetGlue as a board member.

Krauss says the company will make an official announcement about its future soon. "We're basically looking at plans to move forward, assessing the market and our place in the market," he says.

GetGlue is earning a few million dollars in revenue per year from opportunistic partnerships with YouTube and movie studios, Krauss says, but this is not a major focus. The company remains focused on product and acquiring users. Krauss stressed that GetGlue adds 160,000 new registered users a month and delivers 1 billion monthly impressions on Facebook and Twitter. Where Twitter owns major news events like sports and awards shows, GetGlue is responsible for 30 percent or more of the social media conversations around scripted and reality TV programming.

Regarding Twitter's recent moves, Krauss argues the services complement each other.  Twitter's service is general, and many TV viewers want a specialized service that is tailored for second-screen viewers. "Just like a Pinterest or Instagram are very symbiotic with Facebook and Twitter in that they're highly specialized, serving a very specific need, I also believe there is an opportunity for a company like ours to provide a specialized second screen TV experience," he says. GetGlue provides much-needed context to Tweets and status updates around TV shows, he says.

GetGlue's backers include Union Square Ventures, RRE, Time Warner Investments and Rho Capital Partners. 

[Image via Thinkstock]