By Jack D. Hidary, contributor
FORTUNE — Are you ready for the 2013 social TV wars? Twitter, Nielsen and a host of companies lined up their armies in 2012. They are poised to go at it this year.
There are two landgrabs going on: the first is to be the platform for social TV, the second to be the industry standard for data and ratings on social TV. Twitter, for one, is making a play for the ratings space as well with its Nielsen partnership to be launched in this year. This partnership will produce a standard social media rating for each TV show to go alongside its traditional Nielsen (NSLN) rating. On the app front, several companies are emerging as leaders. They will ramp up quickly to further engage viewers and deliver more follow-on interactions to advertisers. Here are some of the key competitors:
Viggle was founded by Robert Sillerman who sold SFX Entertainment to Clear Channel for $4 billion. Viggle users verify the TV show they are watching by holding their phone or device to the TV so that the app recognizes the show. This activity rewards the user with points which they can redeem in Apple’s (AAPL) iTunes, 1-800-Flowers (FLWS) and other merchants. Many users have been trained in the Viggle action by Shazam, which kicked off the genre with its top music recognition app, but is well behind Viggle in the TV space.
Viggle recently acquired GetGlue, a competitor in the social TV sector. Viggle has partnerships with major networks including NBC, ABC and TNT and is used heavily in sports viewing with its companion fantasy sports game, MyGuy. Viggle is also the loyalty rewards program for cable provider, DIRECTV (DTV), providing DIRECTV customers who use Viggle with exclusive rewards and bonus points.
Sports, in fact, leads all other categories in social TV interactions. Trendrr just released an analysis of social interactions across Twitter, Facebook (FB), Viggle and other platforms. Of all TV-show related interactions, sports led with 31%, followed by reality TV with 17%.
Not to be outdone by Viggle, Shazam has introduced similar features although it has fewer TV partnerships. Shazam has focused its efforts on TV commercial check-ins. The company recently released a study which correlates Shazam advertising check-ins with increased follow-on actions by users.
Other competitors in the social TV space include Yahoo’s (YHOO) IntoNow and Miso. IntoNow has introduced a new feature to compete in the social photo-sharing space, ‘CapIt’, which allows users to send their friends snapshots from a TV show with their captions superimposed on the photo. Miso meanwhile just launched a new product, Quips, a mobile app that competes with CapIt and allows users to share their favorite individual moments from TV shows with captions as well.
Zeebox is another social TV player and has backing from Comcast. A UK-born app, known to users as the “TV Sidekick,” Zeebox has forged strong network partnerships in the U.S. with Comcast Cable (CMCSA), NBCUniversal, HBO and Cinemax. Zeebox offers several perks that make second-screen viewing more enjoyable such as in-app alerts and reminders for live viewing, a robust offering of program information, ‘Zeetags’ – which allow you to explore show’s content, related topics and characters as well as extend your social conversations outside the app. The information the app provides is specific and tailored to your interests and viewing tastes.
How will all this social TV activity affect Nielsen? Their outdated mode of tracking viewership continues to rely upon a set of families across the U.S. who initially used logbooks to track what they viewed. Now most use TV tracking devices, but still represent a small sample of traditional households. During sweeps, Nielsen still uses paper diaries. I am sure there are lots of teen and college kids filling out paper diaries for them. Err, maybe not.
While advertisers will continue to use Nielsen as a common standard for now, they will push forward in 2013 with complementary channels to assess their engagement and the activity of the media they sponsor. Since Nielsen’s snafu in 2010 on social media, the company is still recovering its credibility in this area. Nielsen’s Twitter partnership will help once it kicks in by the Fall TV season, but it is late to market.
All this activity could be further amped up by the introduction of an Apple TV, Intel (INTC) TV and other integrated TV devices later this year. With integrated platforms, users will see social activity around a show right on the screen. My prediction for 2013: we will see the major networks get more directly involved in social TV either with their own apps or investing in and rebranding the current players.
Here’s a run down of the apps to watch:
: “Watch TV, Get Rewards” This app give you points for checking into TV shows, playing Viggle LIVE -their live trivia game and playing along with their fantasy football/basketball game, MyGuy. You then redeem these points to buy everything from gift cards to Starbucks, Sephora and Amazon or you can turn your Viggle points into charitable donations to the American Red Cross among others.
: Once a user has checked-in, they can receive points, earn digital stickers and get discount coupons. With the new partnership with Viggle, we predict integration into Viggle points for discounts at network merchants.
: Using Twitter, this app features real-time data and information in the form of tweets, news headlines and play-by-play sports updates aligned with what the user is viewing. Its new CapIt feature lets users send TV show snapshots to friends with commentary.
: Millions of users already have this app on their iOS and Android devices that makes it easily accessible. Users can tag commercials and TV shows for extended information on programming, trivia, news, Twitter feeds, cast information, show data on IMDB and Wikipedia and song details from soundtracks.
: Easy-to-use channel guide that provides user-friendly listing of show pages. Allows easy access for fans to connect to network content for programs, as well as connect with other fans watching live and generate continuous dialogue inside and outside the app.
: Upon check-in to TV shows and movies you can earn points and badges. Their new iOS app allows you to pair with DIRECTV receivers over Wi-Fi and automatically displays what’s playing. Their Quips app lets users send snapshots to friends from TV shows.