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.
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.