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Make predictions while watching Netflix with Plot Guru

The original wave of social TV apps ended up failing. GetGlue and Miso were just two of them that tried to make the television experience more social in an environment that was already dominated by Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and Tumblr. A new wave of apps is about to begin, catering to binge watching fueled by Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. Plot Guru, an app that allows you to make predictions around shows on Netflix is gaining traction before it has even been released.

After noticing that a post about the app was gaining buzz on Reddit, Found Remote got in touch with Justin Key and Ethan Dirks two of the Austin-based cofounders, weeks before their planned launch. An iOS version will come out first and talks of an Android version are already in the works. You can sign up early on their site.

Found Remote: Why did you both create Plot Guru?

Justin Key: The idea for Plot Guru started early last year when my wife and I were binge watching one of our favorite shows with a group of friends. As we went from episode to episode we were debating what would happen next, so we decided to make a game out of it. I started keeping track of everyone’s predictions and kept score of who could correctly guess what would happen next. I think it started out on the back of a take-out menu, and eventually moved to an Excel spreadsheet, where I built a rudimentary scoring algorithm to rank each player. Fast forward about nine months, and me and my now co-founders, Ethan Dirks, Vivian Hu, and Justin Jia, are in the final weeks of development and user testing for the Plot Guru mobile application.

I shared the idea for Plot Guru with as many people as would listen and I learned that our experience was not unique. Watching TV is a social experience – and in age of the internet that remains true even when we’re watching alone. TV viewers now turn to Twitter to share their thoughts on popular TV shows, and they interact with other viewers on Tumblr and other fan sites. Even the television networks are starting to understand this social phenomena and are creating interactive web pages and even talk shows catering to fans who want to do more than just sit and watch.

FR: Does it only work with Netflix? How do you get their data?

JK: The initial release of Plot Guru will only work with shows on Netflix, but we’re in the process of creating game and trivia content that can that can be played with TV shows and movies on other streaming video providers, such as Hulu, Amazon Prime, and even YouTube.

We’re not affiliated with Netflix, so we don’t link to their data or APIs. Plot Guru’s question and trivia content is based on the timing of each episode, so players just have to click a button in the app when the episode begins and Plot Guru will know when to deliver the questions and trivia to the player’s mobile device in sync with what’s playing on-screen. Our team is currently exploring some more creative ways to build a fluid linkage to the streaming video content. For example, using sound recognition to sync Plot Guru to what’s playing on TV.

FR: Are you worried about them potentially shutting you down?

JK: I’d be lying if I said the thought hadn’t crossed my mind more than once. The whole idea behind Plot Guru is to make the television viewing experience more interactive and engaging, so rather than trying to shut us down we’re hoping that we can forge partnerships with the content producers and streaming service providers to help them engage with their viewers in a new and exciting way!

FR: Would you want them to acquire it?

JK: It’s hard to even think that far down the road, but I think that would be an exciting possibility! I can imagine Plot Guru fully integrated into Netflix, where game and trivia content appears directly in their mobile or Smart TV app. Viewers could participate in something like competitive binge-watching! There are a lot of other exciting features we have planned that could really change how viewers interact and engage with their favorite television content. It’s all fun to think about, but right now we’re 100% focused our app and building the best possible experience for our users.

FR: Were you surprised by the positive reaction on Reddit?

Ethan Dirks: I think I can speak for everyone on the Plot Guru team when I say that we know we’re on to something special. But it still always catches you a bit off-guard when somebody else says it –– especially when that “somebody else” is reddit. Unlike your best friend or your mom, reddit has no filter. If something is off, they’ll call you out. In the smaller non-default subreddits (where we've been sharing this app), users are incredibly keen and itching to condemn self-promotion. So when you visit these communities, you need to do so with care. And you absolutely must bring something of value to the table. So I’d attribute much of reddit’s positive reaction to the way we approached it: interesting content first, promotion second.

FR: When is the launch? What platforms will it be on?

JK: The initial version will only be available on iOS, but we’re in the planning stages for Android development. We’ve already had a ton of people express interest in an Android version, so that’s definitely going to be a priority in the coming months.

FR: What are your favorite shows?

ED: My opinion is way more valuable than Justin’s on this. FLCL takes the cake, hands down. But alas, it’s not on Netflix yet (a boy can dream). Among the shows you’ll find on Plot Guru, Firefly and American Horror Story are two of my personal favorites. The great part about Firefly is that it’s the definition of a cult hit, so we’re expecting a lot of rewatchers to play it. That gave our question-writers the chance to have a lot of fun with inside jokes, references, and the like. But American Horror Story? That’s a completely different beast. It’s uncensored, unapologetic, and absolutely horrifying. And I appreciate that; if you’re going to do something, go hard in the paint. We definitely didn’t hold back either –– you’ll find some of our questions to be pretty shocking.

FR: Thoughts on the future of TV?

JK: I could probably talk on this subject for hours, but I’ll do my best to be brief!

It’s no secret that one of the most significant developments in the media and entertainment industry over the last decade has been the transition from linear television to internet television (think the NBC nightly lineup vs. binge watching on Netflix). When you combine the increasing popularity of internet TV with the rise of social media and the ‘second-screen’ viewer – i.e. people who watch TV while also interacting online with their mobile phone, tablet, or laptop – it seems clear that media companies need to develop new ways to keep viewers engaged and entertained.

To that end, I think we’re going to see producers, networks, and streaming platforms looking for unconventional ways to deliver content and interact with viewers. That’s where Plot Guru comes in.

Integrating real-time games and trivia into the television viewing experience is only a first step. We’re hoping that Plot Guru will become the go-to platform for networks and streaming services, like Netflix, to engage with their viewers, while also providing a fun and enjoyable way for those viewers to interact with each other.

FR: Anything else?

JK: We’re currently doing a limited time promotion for people who sign-up early on our website. Anyone who signs up during the promotion will get free in-app purchases for life!

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Natan Edelsburg

I help run the Shorty Awards (http://shortyawards.com) and Muck Rack (http://muckrack.com). I also watch a lot of TV and write about it occasionally. http://linkd.in/nedelsburg

All by Natan