August 06, 2010, 8:06 AM — Yesterday Comcast launched the beta of their TunerFish app for the iPhone (with an Android version still in the pipeline). TunerFish attempts to merge social networking and video watching (both TV and Web). I gave it a spin and found that, as is typical for many betas, there are still some rough spots and missing features.
After downloading the app you're given the opportunity to log in via Twitter or Facebook. I choose Twitter, allowed TunerFish to access my account, added my email and logged in. I found, unsurprisingly (since it just launched), that none of my Twitter friends seemed to be using the service. I decided to add my Facebook account, but couldn't find a way to do so in the app. I looked for any other way to "Find Friends" but as far as I could tell, there was none. The app is extremely bare bones at this stage of development.
TunerFish does have a website so I went there. I had the same choice of logging in via Facebook or Twitter. This time I chose Facebook. When I then tried to add Twitter I was told that my Twitter was "hooked up to another user" and that I should disconnect that account first. I tried putting in my email address but TunerFish wouldn't accept it. So I backed out and logged in via Twitter on the web site and then tried to add Facebook and got a message that my Facebook account was now "hooked up to another user" and that I should disconnect that first. Logged out, back in using Facebook. Clicked Disconnect and nothing happened.
So now I had two TunerFish accounts, one hooked up to Twitter and the other hooked up to Facebook. No amount of prodding (including nuking permissions on the social network side) would persuade TunerFish to disconnect either account. The good news is that the gentleman manning the TunerFish twitter account was able to step in and set things to right on the back end. Until they work out the kinks in the sign-up process, I'd urge you to set up your account on the web, then you can safely switch to the iPhone app. The good news is that they know this is an issue so I'd expect a fix soon.
Account set up out of the way, I sat down to figure out what TunerFish could actually do for me. The idea here is that when you're sitting in front of your TV channel surfing and not able to find anything to watch, you can log into TunerFish and see what all your friends are watching. You start watching the same thing and share that you're watching it and if enough people do that, the show starts trending. Right now you change channels manually but TunerFish's John McCrea told TechCrunch that eventually they'll hook the app to your Comcast cable box and allow TunerFish to change the channel for you. For now, there's nothing Comcast-specific on TunerFish, so any and all fans of TV can enjoy it.
Of course, the fundamental flaw here is that no one I know watches "live" TV anymore; we all DVR and time-shift our television. So when I tell TunerFish I'm watching Eureka it doesn't help out my friends unless they, like me, recorded it last week. My point being I'm not sure that the connection to a Comcast set-top box is ever going to be a huge deal. Adding to that feeling is the fact that TunerFish tracks web videos as well.
As a way to know what your friends watch on a regular basis, TunerFish works fine and is equally useful for Comcast and non-Comcast TV viewers. As you share the shows you watch you'll earn Foursquare-like Badges. I mentioned I'd watched Eureka (which I had, the previous evening) and got a "Guppy" badge for my first check-in. The biggest obstacle TunerFish faces right now is engaging new users: my only Friend on the service is TunerFish itself. How to get a new social network up to critical mass is a problem I'm glad I don't have to solve. You can look at what's trending among "Everyone" but you're probably familiar with what you'll see: Tru Blood, Mad Men & The Daily Show are the TV shows trending among Everyone right now. You've probably heard of all of those anyway, right? The Everyone listing might be more interesting for web videos; that's how I found the silly clip embedded below.
Now all that said, this isn't the first TV-focused social network out there, and I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Clicker and Miso, both similar services that seem to be much farther along in their development. But then, for every FourSquare there must be a Gowalla, right?