SocialTV Week In Review: Ratings Don’t Talk, People Do + MTV’s Kristin Frank + Twitter’s Tony Wang +More

When it comes to television, Nielsen informs networks, media buying companies and advertising agencies alike.  Its data permeates every corner of the industry. Yet the system has never been perfect, and doubts about whether the Nielsen data can tell the whole story trace back to the company’s beginning. Even so, the need for a universal measurement tool remains simple to understand; without a currency, there would be no economy.

In recent years, the relevance of Nielsen’s data has come under increased assault (first from the DVR and now from the Internet and mobile devices) as fractured audiences threaten to undermine the accuracy of measurement. NPD In-Stat estimates 100 million households will be using hybrid (Internet, Mobile and TV) services by 2016. Being able to track these audiences is essential. Ken Goldberg, CEO of Real Digital Media, proves this point when he claims that media buying companies are undervaluing digital-out-of-home ad buys because they don’t understand the space. Ignorance and missed opportunities are perpetuated by the continued absence of reliable metrics.

Nielsen is reacting to the changing landscape, though how fast and effectively it is doing so remains to be seen. The company sought to address the overlooked DVR audiences by introducing a specialized “C3” rating, and this system has now been widely adopted. This week, Nielsen revealed plans to beef up online audience measurement with a new product known as “Cross-Platform Campaign Ratings”. These efforts are clear evidence that the company is working hard to capture viewership data that previously fell through the cracks. Alas, the challenges don’t end here.

Nielsen will also have to navigate the new realm of Social TV. Television audiences who engage with the medium via social networks can be tracked through those networks. This data has the potential to offer not only accurate audience measurement, but it can also provide real feedback from those viewers. This is the kind of intelligence is something networks and advertisers will increasingly demand.

Kristin Frank, SVP and General Manager of MTV and VH1 Digital, says, “…the ways audiences will consume and interact with [content] are quickly changing. It is critical that we as an industry listen to the audience and embrace these changes”.  The importance of “listening” to your audience has been echoed by Todd Spencer, Executive Director of CBC News Network, and Ryan Osborn, senior director of social media at NBC News [see below]. While the concept of “listening” to your audience is nothing new, the methods for actually doing it are. It is here that feedback from social data has the most powerful advantage over Nielsen numbers.

At the IP&TV World Forum in London, Tony Wang, Twitter UK general manager, highlighted additional ways broadcasters could take advantage Social TV data. He supplied successful case studies such as the Survivor host, Jeff Probst, tweeting his show to a fourfold increase in viewership. Wang also threw out some interesting stats, notably, 80% of people under 25 use social networks while watching TV.

There was a lot of news to cover this week, continue reading for more on social video advertising, updates from Zeebox and and much more…

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Social TV Week in Review: The Kids Are Alright – And Still Watching TV! + New Apps Need New Ideas + More

New Social TV surveys, studies and stats abound this week. Findings included the revelation that while [American] teens are spending time in front of a growing range of screens, they are still spending the majority of their time in front of the biggest one of all, the TV! That amount of time has grown roughly 25% since 2004. A separate [British] study found 39% of the 18-24 year old group relies on social media for TV program selection, and a third of them say they are most likely to join the online conversations their friends are already having.  CTV Advertising claims that 60% of viewers saw ‘social disruption’ when interacting with second screen synced ads, but they also found engagement to be deeper and more meaningful when those ad interactions were incentivized.

Despite many telling new reports, measuring the precise impact of social on ratings remains elusive at this point, according to CBS’s SVP of communication. One could argue, however, that this goal of benchmarking one to the other is irrelevant. Ratings and Social are two separate but significant indicators of a show’s general performance.  If anything the impact of social data will continue to grow as audiences migrate their TV consumption online and cross screen. While social data is still being defined and qualified, early adapters will likely reap the biggest benefits.

In other news, the well of Social TV apps hasn’t run dry quite yet (or has it?).  The latest app ‘Peel’ has been tailored specifically for the show American Idol and allows viewers to boo or cheer the program’s contestants and judges.  The app is certainly simple, but, in my opinion, utterly devoid of imagination. Obviously there will be people willing to give it a try, but is this really the future of the second screen? Is it the most powerful, engaging and entertaining use of such valuable second screen real estate? I doubt it.

Unless apps begin to offer more, people will become frustrated and bored, something that happened already in Walking Dead’s app attempt [see below]. Then again, check-ins are a comparably simple and, by now, often a staple feature of Social TV apps, and the service GetGlue is thriving.

On the topic of GetGlue, one advocate of the app describes its addictive nature while revealing a telling weaknesses when it comes to relying on the platform as a tool for measuring audience engagement. The user is incentivized to interact with TV, but has also learned that he only checks-in to shows he wants rewards from, despite liking and watching other shows. The implication may call into question the effectiveness of certain second screen data as a reflection of true viewer engagement.

For this and everything else important in Social TV news this week, keep reading. Read the rest of this entry »

Social TV Week in Review: I Don’t Want to Lean Forward! + Social TV Apps Booming or Consolidating?

As TV becomes increasingly social, overkill is a growing concern.  Audiences who DVR their programs may find ‘live’ incorporation of social feeds a stale and potentially irksome feature. Furthermore, industry insider Tom Cunniff, raises a simple yet very important question: what about people who turn on the TV to tune out? He is referring to the ‘lean back’ audience who wouldn’t want to ‘lean forward’ even if served with the opportunity.  They don’t want to make more work for themselves – they simply want entertainment.

Perhaps we should consider the fact that every show on television is not equally suited for Social TV. Certain genres, and perhaps specific shows among genres, may be equipped for social in different ways. Some shows might find success in incorporating on air social integration while others would benefit from providing that additional content via the second screen. Still other programs might do well to leave audiences in control, inviting their off-color remarks and unsanctioned opinions to grow a more organic community. Such a community could fill creative holes a network or producer has overlooked, and might do so in ways that wouldn’t be appropriate for the show makers to attempt.

In sum, there is no blanket Social TV formula that can be applied across all shows on air. The way forward is to identify what aspects of social are best suited to the program even before it is put into production, thereby allowing the social features to be baked in at a deeper level.  That is what ‘Extra’ host, Maria Menounos, Al Jazeera and Channel4 (to name the few cited below) are doing. Even brands, such as Ford (see below), are setting social as an initial target.

While the new playground of Social TV has invited many a newcomer, there has been talk that the second screen market will begin to consolidate. This week TVGuide, acquired in a move that would suggest this process is underway. Still expansion seems to be happening at a greater rate, just look at TvTak, IBubblr, Wayin and Fanatix (below) which have all jumped into the news recently.

All of this and much more is covered in the articles of this week’s Social TV round-up… Read the rest of this entry »

Social TV Week in Review: Second Screen Distractions + New Studies Reveal Engagment + Latest Social TV Players

Social TV detractors claim that a barrage of secondary content and social features can be distracting and even intimidating to the average television viewer.  Despite the fact that this information influx is most likely a non-issue for the TV junkie who has deliberately opted-in to such services, the worry caused by data overload is legitimate.  Reconciling these concerns, by figuring out the right ratio of TV to social and supplemental content, will certainly solve a great number of problems in the growing industry.  Fortunately, this is exactly where many companies are focusing their resources.

Some critics have asserted that second screens move viewers further out of range for advertisers; I believe this is a fallacy. There is always the opportunity to generically screen sync ads – but if the notion of creating transmedia experiences intimidates rather than excites the agency, well then, we should really be having another discussion.  All this is to say nothing of the personal data a second screen has the potential to capture!

But for every cynic there are a dozen supporters. TVGuide has just published the latest bit of empirical data, which suggests social media is driving engagement and fueling retention when it comes to TV. A separate survey conducted by ANA/Forrester found media budgets are increasingly diverting dollars to TV and Digital ad buying.

Also promising, Netflix, a service once known only for movies, is now thriving off its TV offerings.  Meanwhile, movie studios are adapting their bonus content” to second screen format in hopes of bolstering DVD and Blueray sales.

Finally check out some of the exciting new plays in the social TV space from folks like Discovery, NASCAR, Umami, MTV, Audible Magic and RUWT.

All that and more to follow in this week’s Social TV recap… Read the rest of this entry »