If you’re tuned in to the TV space there are a lot of great things to watch. More and more, networks are releasing their shows early or exclusively via online platforms (The Mindy Project on Hulu, Ben and Kate on Facebook, Smash on iTunes, Suit Up on Yahoo!, Raising Hope on Twitter etc.). Á la Alan Wurtzel’s ‘billion-dollar Olympic experiment’, many are betting that the online buzz from the type A viewer will drive ratings around linear debuts. It’s an interesting new delivery model that has networks testing their limits in the digital age.
The traditional networks aren’t the only ones experimenting…
Amazon, YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, even Xbox and Nintendo, are all looking to create their own content and move it across their own channels. When Netflix launched Lilly Hammer they didn’t just release a single episode premiere, they dumped the entire season online, all in one go. Companies like Netflix don’t have to play by the same rules as ad supported networks, nor do they have to mimic subscription cable services such as HBO.
It doesn’t stop at delivery…
As new players enter the space, they continue to shake up the establishment at all levels. YouTube’s director of product management, Shiva Rajaraman, suggests the 15 or 30-second spot is an anachronism of traditional TV. Branded content? Incentivized engagement? – are these the tools of the new marketer?
Apps are fanning the flames…
According to Adweek a new app called Matcha, “has already partnered with Netflix, iTunes, Hulu and Comcast’s Xfinity to provide users with access to 200,000 movie and TV titles they can elect to watch on the big screen or in some cases within the app itself”. When the networks and larger companies leave consumers wanting more, nimble start-ups rush to fill the gaps. Second screen experiences are moving beyond check-ins and sharing, to now offering discovery, recommendation, personalization and even their own original content.
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Take a look at a few of the headlines this week: Cablevision experiments with ‘communal television viewing’; Nintendo and Xbox dabble with TV delivery and interactive content production; Samsung to award $300,000 in the first ‘Second Screen Storytellers initiative’; Shazam applies its audio content recognition technology to TV, etc, etc. Technology is rapidly transforming the media landscape and everyone (from cable operators, to information technology companies to gaming and mobile app developers) is vying for a position in a still undefined space.
Let’s not forget about the broadcast and cable networks themselves!
New research from Avid and Ovum upholds, “75% of media executives believe online, social and mobile platforms actually drive audiences to watch more television content”. Marc DeBevoise, SVP-general manager at CBS Interactive, Peter Naylor, NBC Universal’s exec VP-digital media sales, and Jesse Redniss, SVP of digital for the USA Network, are among the outspoken executives who would likely corroborate Avid and Ovums findings.
So where does that leave Social TV?
In the modern age of television, traditional measurement systems struggle to adapt to the changing environment, but Social TV is well positioned against the chaos. Social data measurement is inherently a cross platform measurement; social data is collected across all screens and devices – it applies to live, recorded, VOD and streamed media alike. The social conversation is happening 24/7 and therefore measurement never really stops. All of this makes social data well defended against fragmentation and invaluable as a real-time, 360-degree evaluation of how viewers are responding to the programs they watch and the networks behind them.
There are some who dismiss Social TV as a trend among younger demographics who aren’t as heavy TV consumers. Yet this younger audience is also tech savvy, influential, vocal and has purchasing power. These characteristics make them some of the strongest and most valuable brand advocates ad money can buy. More importantly they are getting older. Soon millennials will settle into the couch while a new crop of ‘digital natives’ or ‘plurals’ will make them look ancient. Denying the power of Social TV because a generation of TV viewers on their way out hasn’t caught on is as misguided as it is damaging. Social TV is in great position to scale along side an evolving media landscape.
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This week Ad Age reported that Allstate would leverage consumer data gathered by Experian, Epsilon and AxiCom against data from Dish and DirecTV subscribers for the purpose of targeting and delivering ads strictly to renters. ‘Addressable ads’, as they are being called, are the latest implementation of big data to optimize ad spends.
In the same week Mindshare proclaimed, “Social TV heralds a new era of TV advertising where interruption and disruption is replaced by relevance and added value”. Social networks have a great ability to surface recommendations and deliver personalized content in an organic and low cost manner; that makes social data another important element in targeting consumers.
At the intersection of consumer data, set top box data and social data, ads are becoming more relevant than ever. As consumers continue to search and shop from mobile devices, location data will play a greater role as well.
Of course, digesting all these data, developing the mechanics to weigh all the variables and finally deliver the right ad, at the right time, in the right place is no easy feat. Still, the growing wealth of information we have at our disposal, to shape the creative and pinpoint the audience, makes it an exciting time for TV and advertising.
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Once upon a time, there was one screen: TV. Now consumers have computers, phones and tablets to offer themselves entertainment and utility in different settings. How consumers interact with their new screens, and how this supplements or hurts the television industry, is of major import given the proportion of ad dollars that still go into TV over other media. When major firms release consumer research studies, they tend to grab headlines.
It is the headline that gets remembered. Findings are inevitably reduced to stats and stats are cherry picked for decks and boardroom presentations – they can float around for months or even years, long after being detached from the supporting body of work.
In the recent past, studies from Nielsen and Deloitte have had people talking. In April, Nielsen claimed “88 percent of tablet owners and 86 percent of smartphone owners said they used their device while watching TV”. In August, Deloitte offered a more conservative estimate, “Nearly a quarter of people (24%) use second screens while watching TV.” The numbers ‘88’ ‘86’ and ‘24’ have been freed from their original context and are now used to make the case either for or against the proliferation of second screening.
Go ahead and add ‘62’ to the mix. Ericsson ConsumerLab’s annual study says, “Sixty-two percent of consumers use social media while watching TV”.
It’s no ones fault that thorough research gets boiled down to a single stat; a one liner is simply easier to digest and faster to share.
That doesn’t mean we are free to forget that different findings are a result of different methodologies. Surveys range in sample size, geography, demographics and the time period they span.
In this case, Nielsen’s figures refer to the U.S. market, Deloitte’s to the UK. Deloitte’s survey queried 2,000 participants; Ericsson’s drew from 12,000. When Nielsen claimed 88% of (U.S.) people were using second screens while watching TV, they meant at least once every month. Ericsson’s 62% refers to how many people are using social media every week. These nuances will go a long way to shape the stat that becomes the headline and the next industry benchmark.
Finally, it’s never a bad idea to question of the motive of the company presenting their findings and what they have at stake in releasing the information they have found.
I say none of this to discredit the research behind the findings. Instead, it’s a warning to those who are looking at what trends are actually happening as compared to what trends special interests would like to have you see.
Whether the next headline reads “Social TV is on the rise” or “Social TV not catching on”, remember to take a second look at the numbers. Read the rest of this entry »