SocialTV Week In Review: On the Road to Revenue Twitter Turns to Social TV

By now it’s a well-worn path for startups: an ingenious idea, explosive growth, a fresh business model anchored to ad revenue, and, if you’re lucky, a wildly successful IPO. But just take it from Facebook, the growing pains won’t end there.

Before Twitter makes its public offering, it needs to prove its merits as a business, not simply its popularity among non-paying users. Although promoted tweets appear to be doing well, Twitter is hoping to tap the multi-billion dollar television industry to strengthen its position.

Yes, we’re talking Social TV. The stakes are high. As it shores up revenue, media experts are wondering if Twitter is reshaping its identity by moving from micro blogging service to a content creating, media company.

In May, Twitter’s UK GM, Tony Wang, urged broadcasters to adopt Social TV strategies for their own good. “Broadcasters are not the ones to choose whether to have social TV. It happens whether they like it or not. But they have a choice about how to harness that social TV energy,” he cautioned. Though his message was packaged as advice for broadcasters, it is clear that Twitter has real interest in cultivating its relationship with TV.

In June, Twitter appointed Fred Graver, creative director for Twitter partnerships, to focus on those relationships. That Graver is a well-seasoned TV executive did not go unnoticed.

Twitter has already made high profile agreements in recent months, notably with NASCAR and NBC for their coverage of the 2012 Olympics. In both instances Twitter is testing its editorial chops.

In the meantime, speculation regarding Twitter’s media ambitions continues to grow. Twitter CEO Dick Costolo recently told The New York Times, “Our business is an advertising business, we don’t sell technology.” He added, “I don’t need to be or want to be in the content business.” A few days later, Adweek came out saying Twitter is “in serious talks about the possibility of launching several original video series”.

For now, outsiders can’t be sure what to make of Twitter’s moves. One thing we do know is that Twitter is willing to experiment and it is sincere about pushing forward into the lucrative television market. Some are skeptical, saying that the company is deviating from its core service. Like any other business, Twitter will have to walk a fine line between turning profits and turning off customers.

Just yesterday it surfaced that Apple may be considering a stake in Twitter. While Apple hopes to leverage Twitter’s social aptitude, Twitter enjoys the privilege of being baked into the most popular “second screen” devices on the planet. A healthy relationship with Apple will ensure that Twitter remains an important part of the Social TV experience.

For these stories and much, much more please keep reading. 

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Social TV Week in Review: What is Social TV? (And The New Terms of Service)

Back in May I went to DigitalFlashNYC’s Internet Week event “Social TV – What’s Really Happening?” The colorful Sabrina Caluori, VP Social Media, HBO, eloquently summarized her thoughts on the subject at hand: “Social TV is bullshit”. It was a calculated declaration, echoing the opinions of many experts who complain that TV is, and has always been, fundamentally social.

Does Social TV exist as something more than a redundancy? What’s in it for viewers, and what’s at stake for the industry? I address these questions in brief below:

What is Social TV?

Internet access and device proliferation are on the rise, moving forward in tandem with the next generation’s social media dependency and 360° entertainment demands. Semantics aside, ‘Social TV’ simply gives us a way to talk about new TV watching behaviors and the technologies that power them.

What does it mean for the viewer?

Your voice counts: Social media channels have amplified the voices of millions of TV viewers and delivered their feedback to content producers and show talent instantaneously. Additionally, the ability to build or join online communities around shows is getting easier and the experience is more rewarding than ever. Strong communities act collectively as brand advocates. In several high profile cases (Community, Fringe), fans have organized to bring programs back from the brink of extinction.

What does it mean for the industry?

Big data: When millions of viewers access TV through social media channels they leave behind a trail of data. Of the many byproducts of Social TV, Big Data are one most promising. TV brands and advertisers can use social data to develop campaigns and strategies. They can use data to personalize content and make it more relevant. Networks are using the data to complement ratings and help sell ad time. Entire businesses are emerging from second screen services, to ad sync programs, to analytics and SRM platforms.

New Terms of Service

Social TV is just one aspect of a changing television environment. Views are interacting with and consuming TV in new ways and starting to look for content on their own terms.

What does it mean for the viewer?

More control: Viewer’s have more ways to access content than ever before. My own TV diet is a balanced regimen of TV, DVR, Streaming, Netflix and Hulu. I’ll flip open my laptop as readily as I reach for the remote. For the first time, viewers can create their own pay-as-you-go packages for TV. They can hack together their own anytime, anywhere bundle. While these experiences may not be flawless (currently), they continue to improve.

What does it mean for the industry?

Consumers are no longer entirely dependent on the traditional providers.  Recent disputes between cable operators and media holding companies (AMC vs. Dish, Viacom vs. DirecTV) had consumers caught in the middle, cut off to programs that they want or expect their bill to cover. Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and Amazon are some of the big names aiming to deliver original, high quality content through new channels that could side step costly arrangements which leave consumers out.

Cable operators, networks, advertisers, producers, hardware/software companies and everyone else who has a stake in the TV industry is rightfully concerned with how today’s viewers are watching television. PEW, IHS Screen Digest, Futurescape, IAB are among the most recent organizations to release their findings on Social TV and viewing habits (for full articles and findings see below). Whether audiences are undermining business models or creating the opportunity to build new ones, the industry must know how to react accordingly.

Follow the jump for the top Social TV News from around the web.

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Social TV Week In Review: Growth & Tech in The TV Market – Twitter and Facebook Battle for the Money

Even amidst a staggering global economy, the television industry is poised to grow. IDATE’s DigiWorld Institute, a leading center for Europe’s market analysis in the telecomm, internet and media industries, forecasts that the global TV market will grow at an annual rate of 4.7% to €355 billion (US $435B) by 2020.

The emerging technologies that are pushing TV ahead from behind the scenes deserve due credit for some of this growth. Gilles Fontaine, IDATE’s Deputy CEO and Project Manager for the report, envisions new distribution models: “the digital store (an open platform that makes all content available to viewers) and self-supply (thanks to the destruction of the exclusive link between the access network and the TV set)”. These distribution models are underpinned by technology that allows the industry to meet the digital demands of tech savvy consumers.

Another example of technology facilitating TV growth can be found in mobile and tablet devices. According to one of eMarketer’s ‘top digital trends for 2012 and beyond’, a majority of users will access the web via a tablet by 2015. Chris Horton, of Internet marketing company SyneCore Technologies, connects the dots; “many millions of users will be accessing TV shows through their tablets”. Device proliferation and better quality video, will drive up content consumption and the price of ad real estate.

The dollars at stake in the TV industry – and the tech sector’s ability to affect its growth – make it a lucrative and logical place for social media giants Twitter and Facebook to expand. Twitter is set to take in $1B a year in ad revenue by 2014.  All Things D columnist, Peter Kafka, claims this puts Twitter on the road towards becoming a media company of its own. Meanwhile, Facebook is signing network deals of epic proportions, notably partnering with NBC for the Olympics and CNN for the elections.

Listen to Mark Silva, SVP of emerging platforms at global strategic design firm, Anthem Worldwide, and you’ll realize Twitter and Facebook aren’t the only players to watch; “there’s money to be made. But the winners won’t necessarily be the companies that already have a major presence in digital and social media”.

Keep reading for more stories on Social TV and Social Video companies: Netflix, IMDb, Wywy, Aereo, Zeebox, SnapCuts, iSpot.tv, Pocket TV and Tout to name a few! Read the rest of this entry »


Social TV Week in Review: The Experts Weigh in

Ask networks where the value of Social TV lies and you’ll hear something like this: “At the core of social TV, is the notion of driving viewers to linear television so they can interact with a passionate community during or immediately following their favorite shows”. (That’s actually Brian Swarth, Showtime’s VP of Digital Services, in an interview with LostRemote).

One of the many ‘promises’ of Social TV is bringing scattered television audiences back into the fold, enticing the individual with a sense of community and driving everyone home to good, old-fashioned, measurable, live viewing. Once back on the ratings gold standard, the TV economy will continue along its course of perpetual prosperity – or so the thinking goes.

Cord cutting, fragmentation, time shifting and a few other buzz words have the industry starting to sweat. New research measuring the impact of Social TV offers a welcome glimmer of hope.

The Time Warner Research Council recently documented the effects of social media use in combination with TV watching. Chief Research Officer at Turner Broadcasting, Jack Wakshlag, summarized, “people use media to optimize their levels of interest and excitement”. In other words, social media enhances, rather than detracts from, the traditional viewing experience.

The novelty of Social TV and the inherent value in understanding viewer’s social behavior has provoked a plethora of studies in recent weeks. A collaborative research endeavor from IAB UK and ESPN, which focused on Euro 2012, found second screen devices (like social media) have a similar ability to generate meaningful engagement.

A third study from CMB Consumer Pulse has aimed to segment TV audiences by their diverse “needs and priorities”. Responding to CMB’s findings, Global Lead Analyst at KIT Digital, Alan Wolk observed that ‘recommendation’ and ‘mobile’ features were noticeably absent from consumer’s minds, despite their prominence in industry discussions. Wolk, highlights this discrepancy to make a point: “The key is that we are not delivering these features in the right way yet and thus, consumers don’t know what they need”.

‘Delivery’ is something Social TV is still figuring out. Should Social TV be on air social integration or second screen offerings? Should the second screen experience come from the original network or a separate provider? Above all, delivering Social TV to viewers needs to be authentic and seamless in order for it to win mass adoption. Simon Staffans of MediaCity makes a simple and adept analysis; we have moved from a world where Content is King to one where Context is King.

As always the full stories on the topics above can be found below. Other top stories focus on TV’s new digital competition; by hours of video viewed, Netflix may be the biggest network of them all! Meanwhile, Facebook, Microsoft and Google advance into the TV space. There’s much more in this week’s Social TV News! Read the rest of this entry »


Social TV Week in Review: The Second Screen – Another Challenge or a New Opportunity?

It’s no secret how dependent we’ve become on our computers, phones and tablets. Therefore it should not surprise anyone that we bring these devices into the living room to play and work on while watching TV. This behavior will become more commonplace as devices continue to permeate our lives. Nielsen reports that in just the last year, “smartphone penetration has gone up 34 percent, tablet adoption is up 400 percent”.

The ‘second screen’ (a name bestowed upon any device once it occupies the same room as the TV), has captured the attention of networks and advertisers. According to Videonet, “ITV, the UK’s leading commercial broadcaster, is excited by the potential impact of second screen programme experiences”. Peter Scott of Turner Sports New Media claims, “Advertisers drive us to make a commitment to the second screen”.

So why the excitement? The second screen offers a powerful new medium for delivering content and engaging consumers. In theory, tracking people’s preferences through the Internet and the social graph is now possible on the second screen. This opens the door for greater personalization, or tailoring content to individual consumers. Second screen apps, can offer more targeted, less intrusive ads and even recommend content.

A new study from Thinkbox is one of many seeking to understand the consumer’s second screen behavior. Thinkbox found that additional screens in the living room keep viewers around during ad breaks, encourage more TV watching and do not affect ad recognition. Not all research has been as upbeat.

An NPD study revealed, “70 percent of survey respondents say they’ve watched TV on a device other than a TV”. Although some may use devices to enhance their TV viewing, others are using their devices to replace the first screen entirely. Ashley Swartz, principal of the New York-based consultancy Furious Minds, believes fragmentation across the second screen is a fundamental threat to content owners (See article below).

Tracking ROI from the second screen is another cause for concern. Tammy Franklin, SVP of affiliate sales and new media distribution at Scripps, believes that second screen TV apps today focus on discovery and engagement more so than on advertising revenue. At the 2nd Screen Summit in New York, John Douglas, of digital advertising delivery company DG, explained that second screen campaigns are difficult to compare against traditional ones.

The million-dollar question is, will the second screen provide additive value or will it become a distraction? The answer lies in how networks and advertisers are able to innovate and leverage the second screen.

As always, you can find more on all the Social TV News below (The top 100 advertisers increase spending in unmeasured media, Google lumbers into the TV market and more stories…) Read the rest of this entry »