It's widely accepted that we don't just sit and watch television anymore – we actively participate and comment on what we're watching through smartphones and connected devices. As a result, 'social TV viewing' and 'second-screening' has lead to new commercial models for media owners and new channels for advertisers to reach consumers.
Here's an overview of the key points raised in the live discussion on this topic, involving fifteen experts in this emerging industry.
One of the first issues to be raised was the issue of commercial models – where is the commercial value in developing this technology and functionality around TV content?
Futurescape.TV's Colin Donald cited two approaches being taken by broadcasters when it comes to social TV. The first is to aggregate social activity about their shows and get people to see it on their website and get web ad revenue – as used by Discovery and CBS. Secondly, by developing their own social TV apps, and syndicating their content across third-party apps – a model used by Fox.
Appmarket.tv's Richard Kastelein gave a broader overview of two opportunities for the commercialisation of social TV for broadcasters:
1) Bringing the brands into the second screen to engage with viewers in unique new ways including gamification, transmedia storytelling and branded content.
2) Through direct commerce and the ability to 'buy what you see' on screen via temporal metadata created either by technology or by creating metadata during the pre-production process.
He argues that social TV gives media owners the chance to emulate the best of the music industry:
Right now a large percentage of money being made in the music industry comes from three things. Live performances, VIP experiences and merchandising. Broadcasters will always be able to stuff 30 second spots into the World Cup or Super Bowl, but where's the merchandising? Where's the VIP experience? I believe the second screen app experience for the Oscars in the USA last year included exclusive red carpet scenes and behind the stage extras. There's certainly things to be learnt from the music industry.
Broadcasters have embraced social media with a passion and are doing an excellent job, according to Thinkbox's Simon Tunstill:
Shows are commissioned with social media elements included in the format (like Million Pound Drop); new ad opportunities are emerging, such as ITV's Ad Sync which enables an advertiser to launch a second screen takeover when its TV ad is broadcast; Channel 4 has recently launched 4Now, a dedicated second screen app for its content; Sky has invested in Zeebox; and all broadcasters utilise social media channels to promote shows and encourage interaction in a very cost effective and agile way.
Squawka CEO Sanjit Atwal said it was important to invest in ad technology to make the commercial potential of second screening a reality, sharing an example from their own platform: "We have built our own ad sever and can trigger a brand message depending on the event on the football pitch. For example, if Rooney scores, brand X can show the boot he's wearing and where you can buy it from).
For social TV to be meaningful to advertisers and TV viewers alike, a few pieces of the puzzle have to be put into place. For one, we need to find a way to make tweeting work for live episodic TV. We also need to find a way to get hashtag TV out of its own echo chamber and apply some filtering to Twitter.
What can the second screen do for the first? Television was once a “lean-back” experience, passively consumed from the comfort of the couch, but the proliferation of laptops, smartphones and tablets is making media multitasking the norm.
What began as a natural phenomenon — you see something on TV, you say something on Social Media — has the attention of every TV exec these days.
That wasn’t quite as true a year ago.
From record engagement to major campaigns to multi-million dollar acquisitions, there’s no question that Social TV has a future. Nobody is clear on what that is, but the point of this post is to look back.
Here is my list of 10 important moments for Social TV. It’s far more idiosyncratic than scientific, and surely I missed something big and good, but it offers a glimpse how much happened in this critical year for the space. Feel free to add to the list.
(Just a few notes first: I did not factor in app roll-outs, per se, although two new arrivals were important beyond the app technologies. And I’m not looking at brand campaigns, though there were many excellent ones, including the Voice, Nissan, True Blood’s #makersday and many more.)
10. Twitter hires Fred Graver as “head of TV” (read Ad Age) This was fairly quiet news, but everyone already knows Twitter became the king of Social TV without really trying that hard. Graver, a longtime TV exec, is helping the company become a more purposeful trailblazer. ”There’s a whole ecosystem being described here,” he told Ad Age, “and we’ve only begun to map out that frontier.”
9. American Idol’s finale scores big (read Bluefin Labs) By the time American Idol drew 1.4 million Social Media comments for its May finale, the overall trend of greater engagement was already clear. What amazed people was American Idol set the Social TV record for biggest finalewhile dropping in the Nielsen ratings from the year before.
8. Shazam enters Social TV With a quarter-billion users and big-time brands as partners, Shazam entered Social TV with a bang. First it was the Super Bowl. Then it was the Olympics. Then Shazam settled into every day TV. Scan for a song while watching TV and you’re getting the message that Shazam wants to be a player.
7. CNN wins the Social TV election war (read Forbes) Both on election night, and throughout the campaign, CNN won the Election 2012 Social TV battle over its cable and broadcast opponents. It was a reminder that the cable network is still a big digital player.
6. MTV VMAs catch The Grammys (maybe) In what was arguably the most sophisticated Social TV integration yet, MTV landed in the #2 all-time slot for mentions, or #1, depending on who was counting. It confirmed two things: 1) MTV is awesome at Social TV; 2) There is no standard for Social TV measurement … yet.
5. The Grammys grab 13 million mentions (read Forbes) The Grammys’ Social TV numbers were more remarkable, however, because no one saw them coming. Surpassing the Super Bowl and all expectations (including those who measure Social TV), the show had one last surprise: It wasn’t necessarily the Whitney Houston tribute that drove the chatter. In fact, the Twitterverse relatively quiet during that section of the show.
The trend towards mobile has led to Channel 4 exploring the possibility of launching its own branded app for the flagship channel or E4, in addition to the second screen apps it already has for specific programmes, such as Million Pound Drop.