Peter Kafka

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Viggle Tries to Bulk Up Its Social TV Business by Buying Wetpaint

poltergeist_feature_cropViggle, the company that rewards people for watching TV shows, has bought Wetpaint, a Facebook-centric publisher that specializes in writing about TV shows.

The deal, which is costing Viggle $30 million in cash and stock, is supposed to give the company a new audience to pitch its eyeballs-for-stuff proposition, via’s audience of 12 million people.

And it’s also supposed to supply Viggle with technology it can use to reach more people. A year ago, Wetpaint was trying to position itself as a tool that other publishers could use to find an audience on Facebook. The company ended up backing away from that offering, but Viggle says it will be able to use the tech anyway.

For Wetpaint’s employees and its backers, the deal is a semi-soft landing. The company had raised $40 million from investors including Fidelity and Accel. But CEO Ben Elowitz says that all 47 of the company’s employes, including himself, will go to work for Viggle.

Viggle, a public company backed by entrepreneur Robert Sillerman, is one of many “social TV” startups that cropped up in the past few years. Most of its competitors have faded away, but Viggle, which is supposed to deliver TV viewers to advertisers and programmers, is still at it.

Its growth has stalled, though. At the end of September, it had an average of 475,000 active users a month checking into TV shows in return for points, which they’re supposed to eventually redeem for gift cards and other rewards. That’s down from 525,000 users a year earlier.

Last year Viggle announced plans to buy GetGlue, another TV check-in startup, but that deal fell through in January. This one is a big bet for Viggle, which has a market cap of $42.3 million and ended its last quarter with $1.8 million in cash.

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