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 »

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 »

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 »