Social TV Week In Review: Digital and Social at Upfronts + Buzz over Brand? + Death of the 30″ Spot

At this year’s upfronts, TV networks placed more emphasis on digital and social than ever before. TBS and TNT foretold of their transformations to “branded video destinations”, where linear viewing is just one more option, while CW asserted that it was “the first fully converged network”. Meanwhile, FOX used their upfronts to position themselves for the impending battle against Netflix and Hulu.

In an interview, Gayle Weiswasser, VP of Social Media at Discovery Communications, shed light on network executives’ Social TV hopes and expectations. Among them is the ability to drive TV tune in/web traffic, listen to viewer conversation and uncover new audience insights.

Ms. Weiswasser and others interested in unlocking the value of Social TV should consider the distinction between building buzz and building a brand.  Keith Reinhard of DDB warns against a singular focus on building buzz, which may neglect or dilute the brand – The WWE presents a good case study.

The WWE is a leading advocate of Social TV and has deeply embedded Twitter into its programming. On Monday nights, RAW characters carry plot lines through Twitter while handles and hashtags are promoted in efforts to spark trending topics. But what would seem like an airtight social strategy has, in fact, alienated some viewers. The problem is that super saturation of social integration is still a nuisance for many (see article below). Pleasing all viewers is an impossible task, but, when a vocal opposition airs its grievances, it is important to listen.

Satisfying different viewer segments is perhaps where a dual screen dichotomy will flourish most. Networks can offer the first screen to viewers as a stand-alone, lean back place to unwind, while the second screen could accommodate those seeking a lean forward, participatory experience.

 Addressing Facebook’s role in Social TV, Olivier Gers, CEO of Endemol Worldwide Brands, believes there is an opportunity for a different type of storytelling that has not yet been discovered. Lessons from WWE demonstrate the same is true for Twitter. Second screen apps will undoubtedly have their own narrative contributions as well.

Discovering new opportunities for storytelling is also a challenge for advertisers. This week the “death of the 30 second spot” was a common topic. Dish’s new Ad Hopper, and the Internet’s greater ability to provide uninterrupted viewing, suggests the value of the traditional spot may be shrinking.  Future spots might start to look a lot more like “a two screen experience tied to linear content that, in turn, offers choice or “gameplay,” and a strong commercial message for the brand”. At least that seems to be the approach of Unilever (see below).

But don’t expect the transition to be easy. TV Everywhere models will present measurement and valuation issues for advertisers and the debate over whether 2nd screens add distraction or value continues.

More thoughts on these topics as well as other Social TV news below. Enjoy! Read the rest of this entry »


Social TV Week In Review: What Was Hot This Week? Upfronts, Mobile, TV Everywhere and Technology!

Upfronts were in full swing this past week and LostRemote supplied great coverage of how Social TV is figuring its way into the industry’s various agendas. As to be expected, talk of Social TV was cited in boasts of impressive stats, e.g. “look ma, CBS has 167M social media fans!” Irrespective of the particular network claim, the takeaway is meaningful; for the first time ever, social data is being brought to the forefront of the highest-level sales pitches in the country.

Beyond a superficial touting of Social TV success stories, Colleen Fahey Rush, EVP and Chief Research Officer for Viacom Media Networks; Kristin Frank, SVP of Digital at MTV and VH1; and Ryan Osborn, senior director, Digital Media, at NBC News (to name a few cited below) offered some down to earth assessments of the impact of social media on television. All agreed that developing deeper fan engagement in the ‘always on’ environment of Social TV is essential to their future operations.

For those who are not Digital or Social Media VP’s and directors, there may still be some doubt. When does Social TV move past a hyper social few to truly connect the viewing masses? Victoria Jaye, Head of IPTV and TV Online Content for BBC Vision, has a piece of the answer; a wider adoption of connected devices in the living room will make Social TV engagement more natural and continue to shift viewer’s habits. Andrew Fisher, CEO of Shazam, identifies mobile devices as the primary catalyst for these changes and an IAB/Ipsos MediaCT study released this week would seem to confirm the smartphone is the favored device for connecting with TV (see below).

Beyond smartphones, technology is blazing trails for the TV industry on every level. TV Everywhere distribution is helping News Corp. keep their bundles and increase their pricing, but it may also force companies such as HBO to re-think business models and follow in the steps of Netflix. Technology has also opened the doors for Tribune Media Service to announce a recent partnership with Digitalsmiths. Just when you thought the second screen market was ready for consolidation, TMS will use Digitalsmiths’ Seamless Discovery platform to offer app developers 20 different APIs. This will grant them far easier access to the largest stockpile of TV metadata about shows and movies.

Growth may continue for some time as better technology and a more tech savvy consumers create additional opportunities in the Social TV space, but eventually sustainable business models built around advertising dollars will separate the wheat from the chaff. Moving beyond voting and check-in features, the UK based second screen company, Zeebox, is doing precisely that, positioning itself for ad dollars with ‘zeetags’.

There’s a whole lot more in the Social TV news this week. Keep reading to for these and other stories. Read the rest of this entry »

Social TV Week In Review: Transmedia and The Call to Creative Arms

“The future of TV won’t be driven by a social media strategy”. Brian Solis, principal analyst at Altimeter Group, couldn’t be more right. In a world where transmedia (or multi-platform) experiences are taking the possibilities of creativity to new heights, social engagement has to move beyond the now mandated, ‘social media strategy’. Those who can change the way content is created and distributed should heed Solis’ call to creative arms.

James Whatley, Senior Associate Director, Digital at Ogilvy PR, points out that while the first screen is an acceptable place to push viewers to the second screen, it should not be used as a mere portal to second screen material. In other words, encouraging your audience to opt in by following along on Twitter is a good thing, but forcing them to read redisplayed tweets on air is obnoxious. The latter is the perfect example of the creatively sapped, ‘social media strategy’ to which Solis refers.

A far more piercing and specific grievance comes from Mark Drapeau in his criticism of HBO’s social handling of the new series, Girls. Drapeau complains that HBO missed a golden opportunity to connect with fans and build a deeper relationship around the character written and played by Lena Dunham. Injecting the protagonist’s voice into the online conversation, in between shows, and even seasons, could have led the television conversation directly online; Dunham could have been the bridge between screens and the epicenter of fan loyalty. Instead, the character fell silent on line and fans reverted off line. Increasing I wonder when will we see the first show that scripts its characters’ online personas with as much thought as they put into the on-screen ones.

Despite missed opportunities, a report by JWT Intelligence claims transmedia is gaining ground (see below). And further proof that not everyone is in the creative doldrums, Kay Madati speaking at Ad Age’s Social Engagement / Social TV Conference, shared his visions of a more social future; think Facebook being able to record shows for you that hit a critical mass of your friend’s ‘likes’. Keeping in mind new possibilities, and the mantra “Why would they care? Why would they share?” will serve producers and marketers well as they redefine TV.

For all the talk of creativity, Jeremy Toeman, Chief Product Officer for Dijit Media, still boils everything down to what he sees as a fixed behavioral psychology. People show up with something to watch in mind (deliberate viewing) or they are searching for it (random viewing), he says. Aside from the rather dull nature of his premise it precludes the fact that our behavior changes gradually, if not in rapid and unpredictable ways. Just look at when and where we watch TV today (anytime and anyplace) to how and with whom we talk about it (through social media, with total strangers). Toeman claims, “any ‘future TV’ service or product which doesn’t account for both types of TV viewing [deliberate and random], will fail”. That may be true, but any product that does this, and this alone, will fail to realize the great creative opportunities we have been given.

There isn’t room for it here, so keep reading for all the Social TV News that’s fit to print: Read the rest of this entry »

Social TV Week in Review: Who’s Your Social Audience? Why Discovery Matters? What Do Mark Cuban, NBCUni and Google All Have in Common?

In today’s hyper connected world, the modern television viewer is being super served its stimulation. New channels have steadily trickled into our homes, expanding our content options to the degree that few of us even recognize all the offerings available to us. Now the Internet has truly released the floodgates. To keep us from drowning in content, Social TV is helping viewers focus on ‘discovery’, or finding the content they like to watch. Trusted opinions are more valued than ever and what better source for recommendations than our friends?

The media savvy, advertising hardened consumer is less susceptible to corporate persuasion, but Social TV is teaching networks and advertisers to exercise a softer sell. Marketers are hoping to raise the communities, born organically from Social media, around their brands and programs.  But of course there is a cost; a wall of one-way communication no longer insulates content creators and distributors from feedback and, potentially, backlash.Today’s viewer can interact with talent, writers, producers, and programs for the first time and so it is essential for the creators to know just who their audiences are.

This week the profile of the Social TV consumer is coming into focus. Nielsen has released a study showing women are more likely to be on the Internet in some form while watching TV. Relatively new data on tablet behavior confirms our preconceptions of two-screen viewing: younger audiences are on social media, men care about ‘the game’ and women are finding deals on shopping. Still the importance of identifying behavioral trends will be magnified as more tablets hit the market.

With upfronts well underway, networks from Oxygen to media giants like NBCUni are paving the future with promises of connected Social TV experiences. Mark Cuban has signed on to Social TV by pouring money into second screen app, Flingo, and Google is hosting TV hackatons to see what ideas stick.

Yet for all the excitement, a look at the ratio of Internet to TV ad spending provides a sobering view. It seems advertising money still flows in the direction of tradition. eMarketer provides a consolation of sorts, claiming, “In terms of integrated planning, 48% of respondents said they currently plan TV ads and [online] video together—and another 25% said they are planning to do so within the next 12 months”.

All this and more in this week’s Social TV News. Read the rest of this entry »

Social TV Week In Review: Up Front, Ratings Down: Pivot or Perish – Social TV to the rescue?

Just in time for the upfronts, The New York Times reported Television ratings are down across the board. One hypothesis suggests we are witnessing a delayed fallout from a growing number of non linear viewers.  Viewers, who didn’t show up live to American Idol, weren’t there to hang around after either; as a result ratings fall together.

Lloyd Braun, former ABC Entertainment Chariman, sees a disjointed relationship between viewers and ad dollars; viewers are moving online and mobile but the money just isn’t following. Social TV may not be an absolute solution, but it could help both networks who struggle to sell their lineups and advertisers who seek to buy more effectively.

Networks should take note of the correlation between significant social engagement and higher ratings; after all, the phenomenon was first evidenced by The Nielsen Company itself. Since the services used to interact with TV are collecting more refined data about audiences than ever before, advertisers would be wise to use these platforms and facilitate social engagement.  Socially integrated strategies will win audiences and consumers alike.

The consumer receptive to social integration is obviously digitally savvy and social media hungry, but you might be surprised to know what they look like in today’s market. A new study from Nielsen reveals moms are the modern day media mavens. The company finds “moms are more than 50% more likely to say that they are spending more time with online video and Internet TV than the general online population”. Additionally moms are using tablets and smartphones to a greater degree than the rest of the population. This is precisely the kind of data that should be valued by networks and advertisers as they seek to maximize their returns. Social TV by nature is online and cross-platform.  It is perfectly aligned to catch audiences already moving in that direction.

Social TV is also uniquely positioned to revamp live television.  The sheer volume of social chatter amongst fans during airings may be enough to push their friends to tune in as well. Part of the fun about tweeting about a show is being the first to discuss it; arrive late to the party and you might not have anyone to talk to. Obviously some complain about spoilers, and while they express legitimate grievances, regulating freedom of speech on the Internet is probably not the best solution for anyone.

Discovery Communications prove at least some networks are paying attention. After seeing a 70% increase in streaming on it’s web properties, Discovery is focused on building up its online video offerings. Mobile is another area of strategic interest. According to the company, “15% of Discovery’s digital content is now consumed through a mobile device”. Now the challenge lies in developing the infrastructure to monetize mobile effectively.

A behemoth such as Discovery will take time to pivot, but doing so will be critical. Netflix is one of many catching on to the idea that they may not need to play second fiddle to traditional content providers. The company’s logic follows, “we can acquire content more cheaply through licensing shows directly rather than going through distributors who have already launched a show”. Netflix is joined by Microsoft, Amazon, Google and Hulu who all are also preparing for original content production.

The threat to traditional TV providers doesn’t end there. NimbleTV “is offering an online TV platform that allows a customer of a paid TV subscription plan to get their content streamed to them wherever they are”. The dreams of cross-platform ‘TV everywhere’ seem closer to being realized than ever before.  Yet a lesson from Aereo, a company with a similar product,  warns against incurring the legal wrath of protective broadcasters.

Navigating this new world of online content ownership and distribution was at least partially the subject of a Senate committee hearing involving industry titans: Microsoft, Amazon, Nielsen and more. GigaOM reported, “The hearing did clarify a fundamental issue about both television and broadband. The two are now intertwined, so from a regulatory perspective the fight will now be about who holds the power in terms of relationships with consumers and in terms of their relationships with content companies.”

At the moment traditional networks are the most powerful players in the room, but that alone will not guarantee their safety. Viewers will naturally gravitate to the cheapest service with the best content, available when and where they want it. Advertisers will follow. Social TV is an important ingredient in drawing audiences and keeping them entertained. Read the rest of this entry »