Appstore screens scan

App Watch: Tunity

by Justin W. Sanders  |  02.24.2015

Televisions are everywhere nowadays, whether it’s the gym, your favorite restaurant, the dentist’s office, or elsewhere. But that doesn’t mean you can always watch them. In fact, an argument can be made that you can rarely really watch them at all, for the simple reason that it’s hard to watch TV without being able to hear it – and most TVs in public places do not have the sound on.

Yaniv Davidson, a consultant and entrepreneur with a resume that includes consumer Internet companies such as mySupermarket.com, became acutely aware of this phenomenon through a long string of many business trips.

“I was traveling 3-4 times a week,” he told Brief, “in airports a lot, and always seeing people sitting in front of CNN, watching without sound. I was sitting in an airport lounge when it hit me: How come nobody is letting you hear that?”

Davidson didn’t have a background in TV, but he forged ahead anyway. A few years later, his team released its first product: Tunity, a mobile app that lets you sync the audio of a muted television’s live broadcast with your smart phone.

Available for both iPhone and Android, Tunity is simple and fun to use. Like taking a photo, you just point your phone at the TV screen and capture it. The app scans the images on the screen, locates the channel broadcasting them, and streams its synchronized audio directly to your phone. You stick your headphones in, sit back and enjoy what’s on screen… with sound. Because all Tunity doles out is audio, the data usage is minimal – or at least not so taxing it can’t be used in waiting rooms and other places where you might want to watch some tube for just a few minutes.

Naturally, this technology solves a lot of problems around the home, where there are many conceivable scenarios in which your family/housemates don’t want to hear what you’re watching. But the app’s greatest value to consumers and networks alike lies out of the home.

“The ones that will benefit most from Tunity are the networks,” Davidson said. “We increase engagement. What are the odds you’ll watch an interview on CNN if you can’t hear it?

Davidson went on to cite estimates that there are over 500 million cumulative viewing hours a month that Americans view outside of home. That sounds like a lot, but if you think of all the people sitting in public areas with TVs on every minute of every day, it may actually be a conservative guess. Either way, it’s at least a “full percent and a half of total hours viewed,” said Davidson. “Networks don’t get paid for that. That percent and a half could be 3 or 4 billion dollars a year that could go to the networks’ bottom line.”

But increased tune-in is only a piece of Tunity’s total potential value pie. In addition to bringing networks’ offerings to more out-of-home viewers, it can measure how many of those OOH consumers are watching those offerings through the app. For some networks whose programming receives a disproportionate amount of out-of-home viewership (think sports, news, etc.), Davidson claimed the boost could be as high as 52%. That seems a bit high, but in any case, there’s no denying that Tunity’s measurements have the potential to spice up ratings.

Tunity could also be a boon for advertisers, as a tool for a more targeted reach. Davidson said that when the app scans a TV, it can make that user viewing data available to the companies buying ad space. “It’s valuable to Budweiser to know you’re in a bar right now,” he said. “We add additional ad space that increases the value of what the networks are selling.”

Tunity is still building its list of supported channels, but so far has the New York Big Four broadcasts as well as cable channels including ESPN, CNN, Comedy Central, TBS and dozens more. Through its partner program, it’s reaching out to bars, gyms, hospitals, waiting rooms and even universities to get public venues on board, and get people watching in greater numbers than ever before.

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