Every time it seems like the old model of TV viewing is finally dying, somebody comes along and tries to resurrect it. Viggle, an app being released today on iOS, is billed as the world's first loyalty program for television. When it's turned on, it uses a proprietary sound-matching tool (like Shazam) to collect information about what the user is watching on TV, then awards points for every minute spent on a show, plus special bonuses for tuning into certain programs or watching commercials through the app or on-screen.
Many of the features offered by Viggle — like a system that lets viewers see which shows are most popular with other users and makes suggestions — have already been integrated into other television platforms like Boxee. Instead, the app hopes to draw in users with its reward points, which can be redeemed for things like $5 Starbucks gift cards. It's also focusing on people who prefer old-fashioned channel surfing to online streaming — while the app could theoretically pick up sounds from a Netflix program, Viggle is meant for live TV or TiVo recordings.
Viggle's creator Chris Stephenson says that although he's not trying to "drive people back to live-TV viewing," it's a beneficial side effect and one that networks are excited about. Ultimately, Viggle's success will probably depend on the level of rewards offered, but it's an interesting way to integrate online features into a medium that's seeming more archaic all the time.