As avid TV watchers, we’ve always felt the need to expand the TV watching experience beyond the television set. We want to be able to keep track of the stuff we’ve watched, share our favourites with our friends, discuss episodes and keep up with the latest news from the world of television.
There have been several attempts to make this a reality, with GetGlue being the most successful of the many similar services out there. We like what the folks at GetGlue are doing, and apparently the rest of you do too, because the service last month reported a 130% increase in activity over the course of three months.
But GetGlue now has a serious challenger in the form of Fav.tv, a slick new social network for TV shows that discards some of GetGlue’s most basic conventions and comes up with its own. In many ways, it is simpler than its more established rival, and is certainly more lovingly designed.
According to Fav.tv co-founder Saverio Mondelli, the site was designed to be a “jumping off point for what to watch and when” and as a way of discovering new shows and going deeper into them. However, they did not want the user to feel like they have to interact with the site while they were watching a show.
To that end, instead of requiring you to check in to a show, Fav.tv lets you mark episodes as ‘watched’ after the fact. It also lets you follow shows that you regularly watch and automatically queues upcoming episodes, besides putting news articles related to those shows in your activity stream. You can go back and add past episodes to the queue as well if you have some catching up to do. If you want to be reminded about new episodes, you can set it up to send you an email, text message or a push notification when the next episode of your favourite show is on.
Fav.tv currently catalogues over 400 shows, which is a relatively tiny selection compared to the number of shows that are out there, and that’s primarily because all the data has to be entered by hand. Mondelli says that his team prefers to do things manually rather than automatically scrape sites like the Online TV Database because it means that they end up with more comprehensive and accurate data for each show and can tailor the artwork according to the site’s requirements, even though the process is slower.
Despite the smaller selection though, Fav.tv is always updated with the latest shows, and older shows are being added to the tail-end of the database every day. The eventual goal is to get every single show entered into the database, especially the ones that follow the standard TV series format of pre-recorded episodes and seasons.
The site’s social features are pretty cool too. It will let you sign-up for a new account using your Facebook or Twitter account and then find your friends on Facebook or by going through your Gmail address book (if you permit it). This feature is not available for Twitter users, but future updates to the site will add support for it, we’re told.
Once you have a few friends, their activity starts showing up on your homepage, including episode watches, comments and when they start following new shows. You can comment on any of these updates and the notifications tab lets you know when you receive any responses. A particularly cool feature is the way the website automatically detects show names in comments and tags the show inline without the need for any special syntax (though it does pose a problem with a name like Episodes).
For a social network that lists “discover new TV shows to watch” as one of its major features, Fav.tv offers precious little in the way of automated suggestions in the style of Apple’s Genius feature in iTunes or GetGlue’s recommendations. But Mondelli has an answer for that as well.
“Friends over algorithms”, he quips, elaborating on that by saying that he thinks people are much more likely to trust new shows that their friends are watching, commenting on and liking than the curated suggestions of a machine, no matter how intelligent an algorithm it may employ. While that may sound like a bit of a cop-out to the cynically inclined, we tend to agree.
Fav.tv also has equally well-designed (and free) Android and iPhone apps that allows you to do essentially everything the website does, without ever feeling too loaded with features. In fact, they are poster children for great design. You can track your shows, mark items as ‘watched’ in the queue (with the option to specify whether you liked that particular episode or not) and get into a debate about the latest twist on Homeland with your friends.
Finally, just to elaborate on the design of Fav.tv a bit, it’s worth noting that the animations throughout the service’s Web and mobile apps are breathtakingly beautiful. That may sound like hyperbole, but we challenge you to disagree with us after taking any of them for a spin. The Web app, in particular, makes very good use of the latest in HTML5 technology and CSS animations to make the user experience smooth as butter!
Fav.tv is holding a contest in November where it’s giving away an iPad 2 to a lucky winner every Friday for the whole month; more details can be gleaned from the company’s website.
Free iPad or not, however, Fav.tv is a really promising new service and is being shepherded by a bunch of people who are clearly passionate about what they are doing and seem to instinctively understand what the priorities of a social network centred around television should be. We’ll be keeping an eye on its progress.