Social TV Week in Review: Disruption and the Virtues of the Internet + Products for Producers

In nearly every conversation about the future of TV, the Internet is demonized almost as frequently as it is championed. On the doom and gloom side, the Internet gave birth to the Hulu’s and Netflix’s of the world, and is the ultimate source of a pandemic fear of cord cutting.  No one will watch TV when it can be streamed for free or low cost online, is one frequent call to arms. How will fracturing audiences be measured accurately? Ask others. And just look at all the new Aereos out there who are so intent on undermining broadcaster revenues! ‘Disruption’, as it is called, has been heretofore unprecedented and it will only continue to erode the foundations of traditional TV, or so the thinking goes.

Not everyone agrees. Some prefer to highlight the virtues of the Internet and technology in general. Both Forrester and Viacom [see below] made quite a fuss this week over new research concluding that tablet devices are pushing more people to TV content than ever before. AdColony’s Brand Impact Study found devices are driving more than just content consumption, but actual purchases as well. Shazam has even suggested that interaction with ads through its service can already be seen as a more powerful sort of ‘CTR’. Of course we can’t forget that without the Internet, WOM marketing would hardly be the same; cue research from agency Digital Clarity – 80% of all under 25’s are simultaneously watching TV and chatting about it with friends.

Still, the biggest news this week came from an Accenture study that found nearly two thirds of consumers watching TV recall seeing the on-screen social media symbols that promote deeper engagement with the show. Sixty-three percent of 18 to 24 year olds are driven to online outlets through interaction with these symbols.

All of these findings are driving networks to incorporate Social TV into their upfronts this year in a brand new way.

So, are the pros of the Internet/technology outweighing the cons? The same Accenture report finds the biggest obstacle to wider adoption of social engagement is viewer’s disinterest in the ‘payoffs’ from their direct interactions.  Audience indifference to social layers runs parallel to industry insider’s frustration that the full potential of television, given a plethora of new technology, is not being fully realized (see Jeremy Toeman’s article below). Still, I don’t think anyone would argue against a wealth of opportunity in the marketplace. Eric Elia, a founder at Brightcove, gets it right: “The opportunity and consumer expectations have never been greater, the technical challenges and fragmentation never more formidable.”

One of the most exciting developments this week was an increased amount of chatter around second screen tools specifically catering to producers. These new offerings include Mobovivo’s StayTuned and’s Prompter. While focusing on the audience was an obvious starting point, creating tailor-made products for producers will be a big step in creating a more seamless integration of social into TV.

Viki, Oohly, and Skitter all after the jump. Enjoy the best of Social TV news here: Read the rest of this entry »


Social TV Week in Review: More Screens & More Data + Distractions & Reactions + Heads Up & Heads Down + More

When the term social media first entered our lexicon, ‘media’ was hardly synonymous with TV. Only recently did we decide that television could and should become a more social medium.  This concept is so late in development that it has demanded a separate nomenclature to avoid confusion; today we know it as Social TV.

We have a name, but the details of how Social TV should be practiced and what it means for both the television and advertising industries are not yet fully agreed upon. This week, ex-freelance project director for ITV, Eric Guillaume, joined the growing number of voices who claim that ‘social’ is all too often tacked to a show as an afterthought. Too frequently it is at odds with the viewer experience. Many are frustrated that “broadcasters and production companies themselves seem to be behind the curve”. Meanwhile, newcomers from web programmers to second screen apps are moving quickly and benefiting from the early adoption of deeply embeded social strategies.

Social TV is inevitably connected with digital world through these apps and social networks. New mobile and online services provide alternative sources for data and analytics that, until now, were strictly the domain of Nielsen. New data have many dreaming up the potential of ever-more targeted content and advertising delivery.

The additional data provided by social networks and apps is generally considered valuable to industry players, but the alternative screens that make this possible receive mixed feelings.  On the one hand, Julianne Pepitone, writing for CNN Money, can barely contain her excitement, “It’s an advertiser’s dream: not one, but two screens to capture consumers’ attention”. On the other, Brian Steinberg of Ad Age just as emphatically projects, “It’s every advertiser’s worst nightmare: consumers so distracted by a dizzying array of media choices that they no longer notice the commercials supporting them”. From such black and white interpretations, the only thing that’s certain is there will be a lot of grey.

Ed Keller, CEO of the Keller Fay Group, would likely characterize Ms. Pepitone’s view as falling into the ‘social Influence’ model. This line of thought supports the idea that brands and advertisers benefit from social sharing. Alternatively, Mr. Steinberg’s view fits the description of the ‘distraction’ model – that too much to look at dilutes attention. Research from the Keller Fay Group supports the former assessment as does Ben Straley, CEO of Meteor, who recently spoke on the topic at NBC Universal’s SocialTV symposium. According to Mr. Strately, “SocialTV represents a HUGE opportunity for media companies to drive much richer and deeper engagement with brand advertising.  The future of advertising is transmedia, interactive, and social.”

The ‘distraction’ model, however, is multi-dimensional and still important to consider if only to discover what to stay away from. To borrow Gary Arlen’s words, Social TV can be ‘heads up’, with social integration happening on the 1st screen, or ‘heads down’ with additional content and features being pushed to the second screen. The question becomes, which form of integration is an intrusion, or are they both? A recent Parks Associates report found viewers are less interested in interacting with TV from phones and tablets or integrating social networking sites with TV; rather, they desire access to simple, cross-device viewing and the ability to control the TV from their second screen.

Whether viewers mean for it to happen or not, the agency Digitas claims that online video is nourishing brand engagement. Technology and the proliferation of tablets and smart phones is playing an important role.  Forrester research points to an overall increase online video consumption attributable to tablets. Furthermore, owners are using tablets to watch TV in places they never would have or could have before.

Finally, Ken Goldberg argues that, as nascent industries, digital out of home advertising and Social TV share a lot common ground and should be further intertwined. He says, “DOOH industry arguably owns the eyeballs of the socially engaged outside the home. We [Social TV and DOOH] need each other…”

All these stories and much more, as always, after the jump. Read the rest of this entry »

Social TV Week in Review: Escape or Engage? + Second Screening is Real + More

In an article in TechCrunch this week, Jeremy Toeman, founder of Dijit Media, declares everything that television stands for can be boiled down to escapism. Toeman claims the foundation of all Social TV technology and experiences should be built off this premise. However, a narrow definition of television as ‘escape’ ignores the possibility that it can be more than one thing to different people. More importantly, this assumption negates the possibility that TV can be something entirely different to the same people at different times.

To me, the notion of ‘escaping’ through television implies a viewer powering the TV on and powering their brain off. Escapism lends itself well to the kind of light-hearted programming that a viewer has nothing vested in and watches passively. When the stakes are high for viewers, when their emotions are heavily intertwined with the characters and content, TV is less about escape. After all, if we only cared about ‘escape’ would anyone really watch the news? The more our programs demand from us, the more we value a two way conversation.

A better approach to Social TV would take into consideration the observations by Gurbaksh Chahal, founder and CEO of RadiumOne. He identifies three key qualities of the Intelligent Web: it is open, it is social and it is real-time. Harnessing the power of these innate characteristics is a stronger starting point for building the future of Social TV.

A survey conducted by TVGuide informs us that over three quarters of people actively engaging TV through social media are doing so to prevent their shows from being canceled. Consumers are using the full power of the Internet (open, social and real-time) to meet their own ends and the providers and advertisers should make use of the same toolset to respond.

This week, Nielsen released its latest report on tablet and smartphone usage while watching television. The findings confirmed the prevalence of second screening and lent an air of official sanction to these trends. According to Nielsen, 26% of Americans are splitting their attention across multiple screens, multiple times a day. Before we get too excited, it is important to note that viewers aren’t necessarily using more screens to engage with TV content, rather viewers use extra screen space for unrelated multi-tasking (i.e. to check their email). Maybe the next second screen startup should build an app that’s half productivity tool?

Convergence Consulting Group cited more cord cutting in the year 2011 although they predict a slowing rate of turnover in 2012. That forecast may conflict with a MIPBlog white paper from IHS Screen Digest which suggests the numbers of TV’s in homes will begin to flat line, while the number of connected devices in homes will continue to grow. If the later is true perhaps cord cutting won’t slow after all.

There’s much more in this week’s Social TV recap. Follow the jump for the latest moves from Zeebox, Orange, Shazam and newcomer Jinni. Also check out cool initiatives and partnerships from: The Voice and Facebook, USA and Viggle, Fox and Activ8, Q’Viva and Read the rest of this entry »

SocialTV Week In Review: TV Viewers and SM Users + Transmedia and Social Discovery

In the purest sense of the term, Social TV is exactly what its name implies, a merging of social media and television. The budding relationship is being well documented in reports [see a few below] that point to the growing interdependence of the two media landscapes. That mobile devices often serve as the bridge between these worlds means there is a natural overlap in Social TV and transmedia discussions. The conversation now turns to what should happen next and how it will affect content consumers and providers.

From the consumer side, TV viewers and SM users are hopping to use social media for content discovery. Rovi, a digital entertainment solutions company, found a trifling 14% of viewers know what they want to watch when turning on their TV’s, while the rest look for help from their program guides. But audiences aren’t stopping there. The UK’s Telegraph reported this week that women are now relying more on Facebook than traditional TV guides when searching for program options. Furthermore, the success of tablet devices has given developers a new playground to test recommendation products and electronic programming guides. While the refrain “content is king” may always ring true, Bob Garfield of Ad Age points out another truth; content will never run dry, in fact there will only be more of it, therefore the focus needs to be on discovery.

From the provider side, Forrester research highlights three important obstacles: measuring cross-platform reach, measuring social engagement with the TV brand and measuring how TV tune-in leads to actual purchases. Measurement is the key. Fortunately, the short-term nuisance of chasing down fracturing audiences and defining new metrics will be greatly outweighed by the long-term benefits of owning more robust data. Eventually, the metrics will be buttoned down and analytical tools will be stronger than ever.

For now, Social TV and transmedia strategies have many kinks to work out. Sidharth Jayant, content service manager at Samsung Electronics says to ‘focus on the TV and then make it social’, not the other way around. Eric Guillaume, ex-freelance project director for ITV, disagrees, ‘It’s a question of culture. Senior commissioning people are still old school and continue to think ‘TV first’. Zachary Weiner, CEO of CTV Advertising, may be the closest to getting it right. It’s no longer about content he claims, we must create experiences.

Companies would help themselves and consumers by concentrating their energy delivering the content they want, when and where they want. The Internet and technology pose obvious threats to the traditional TV establishment, but if audiences are fracturing they are also growing.  People are watching more TV everywhere, online and off, and the tools to target and engage them will only get better.

For all this plus other news and highlights from tweetTV, Airtime and Ford’s Social TV show please keep reading. Read the rest of this entry »