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Comcast patent reveals social TV plans

Comcast subscribers, your TV-watching may soon get a whole lot more social. A recent patent from America’s largest cable provider, uncovered by FierceCable, reveals that the company is developing technology that would allow users to receive notifications when their friends begin watching particular programs.

Dubbed “Xfinity TV,” the revamped program guide may also let users know when their friends change channels. And the episodes and movies that receive the most viewership in a particular city or region may display in a list of “trending” shows, similar to Twitter’s trending topics. A recommendation feature will also be built in. And users who recommend shows regularly could be rewarded with coupons, discounts, badges or other incentives, once they achieve certain milestones (like recommending the same show five times).

It’s currently unclear whether Xfinity would link with other social networks, like Facebook or Twitter. Though Comcast CEO Brian Roberts displayed a version of Xfinity at The Cable Show convention last June, which included Facebook integration.

Of course, Comcast would be far from the first to incorporate social aspects into television. Startups like GetGlue, Miso, and IntoNow, all allow users to notify their friends when they are watching particular programs. But these methods all require a smartphone or tablet, and a separate app. Comcast’s solution, according to the patent, would be built directly into the program guide. Other options, like the Internet-connected Boxee Box, allows users to update their Facebook and Twitter  statuses with what shows or movies they’re watching directly from the built-in software.

Like all things social-network, this feature will be enjoyed by some, ignored by many, and despised by others. While it is definitely a novel idea to be able to automatically tell your friends what you’re watching, so they might join in, it all depends on how the feature works. If it’s intrusive, it could become more obnoxious than overly-loud commercials. But still, Comcast has definitely piqued our interest.

There is so far no roll-out date, and its entirely possible that this feature will never become a reality. But we’ll be sure to keep you updated as soon as we hear something new.