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.

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: Fear and Fortuity in the New TV Landscape

Technology is radically changing consumer behavior and forcing the TV industry to adapt. Out of chaos comes opportunity.

Chaos: DVR and Cross Platform Fragmentation – Are Nielsen’s overnight ratings loosing relevance?

This week, USA Today illustrated how Nielsen’s time-shifted data, coming in weeklong delay, can rebrand networks as winners or losers. Furthermore, “Just 47% of viewing by young-adult DVR users was live, down from 61% four years earlier”. If these trends continue, the traditional overnight ratings will loose value as the currency of the TV economy.

Two separate analyses conducted by comScore and Arbitron and backed by the Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement, found multi-screen TV engagement is on the rise (see articles below). Jeff Siegel, SVP of Worldwide Advertising at Rovi, acknowledges, “Challenges exist for advertisers as they strive to measure effectiveness of campaigns on new platforms and across a fragmented viewership”. With cross platform and social media measurement in increasingly high demand, traditional overnight ratings will further decrease in value.

Opportunity: Big Data and Social TV

Its not all doom and gloom. Eric Savitz, writing for Forbes, claims OTT distribution may actually be strengthening viewer relationships with brands by creating more opportunities for interaction. Among the more exciting perks waiting online are enhanced CRM capabilities and, once the wrinkles are ironed out, the tremendous power of big data.

Start-ups, television manufacturers and cable operators are scrambling to market with second screen applications designed to bring wandering consumers back into the fold. Albert Cheng, executive VP of digital media and chief product officer at Disney-ABC Television Group, remains skeptical of Social TV, citing a relatively small audience and the cost of having writers create supplementary content. Still brands and networks from Viacom, Discovery Communications, the Food Network, USA, A&E, Coke and Pepsi are all wading into the Social TV waters (see related articles below) hoping to cash in.

For all this news and more (Twitter is launching brand pages surrounding hashtags!) keep reading the Social TV News. Read the rest of this entry »


Social TV Week In Review: For Whom the Bell Tolls (Next): Can Social TV Save an Industry?

The death knells can be heard from the far corners of media industry, but is TV listening? Can something be done or is it simply too late? This week, experts from both sides weighed in on these loaded questions. Henry Blodget, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of Business Insider, authored an in-depth piece, “Don’t Mean To Be Alarmist, The TV Business May Be Starting To Collapse”. And with that, the alarm was sounded.

In his article, Blodget drew inauspicious parallels between the television and newspaper industries. The later business underestimated, or ignored, the magnitude of a steadily shifting consumer base until the damage became irreversible. Blodget suggests the TV industry is now following down the same path. Apple’s Airplay, SmartGlass, and Simple.TV (see more on all of these below) are only facilitating viewers’ behavioral shifts.  Recent Nielsen data confirms 8.5% of TV’s audience fled in 2011 and a majority of those who only tune in once a month are now doing so via computers rather than sets.

Cue Evan Shapiro, President of Participant Television, who reassures us with a conviction worthy of all caps, “TV IS NOT DYING”. But Shapiro is talking about the idea of TV, “TV is not a device — it is an experience. Prime Time is not a time slot — it is an expectation of story-telling quality”. By this definition Shapiro tethers television to our primal attraction to narrative, a foundation that is indeed unshakable.

In the end Shapiro echoes, and even reinforces, Blodget’s concerns. It is Shapiro who maligns the next generation of TV viewers.  ‘Plurals’, as they are defined, are the first generation to grow up in an anytime, anywhere, anything culture. They are TV’s future revenue stream, but will make their subscription decisions in times of increased financial pressures. Expecting everything, but wanting only pieces, Plurals won’t buy into to the current delivery system. That’s where Shapiro relates TV to the music industry.

Once TV steps into the life-raft with music and newspapers, it will be too late.  It’s time to take note. Something is happening.

So where can Social TV step in? Laurant Weill, founder and executive chairman of Visiware, explains, “Social TV supports a new multi-business model that will redefine the TV ecosystem including T-Commerce, interactive and targeted advertising, premium content sale (i.e., video, music), and gaming”

Additionally, Social TV can strengthen communities around programs and brands. It encourages live viewing and has the power to revive time-shifted audiences. As TV moves across screens and out the door, Parks Associates sees increased opportunities for advertisers and a new draw for networks.

Michael Lantz, CEO of Accedo, touches on a growing value of social recommendation, which can draw audiences in through back channels. In this vein, YouTube has already modified its algorithms to surface videos that win higher levels of engagement while Twitter is expected soon on Google TV (See below).

For everything fit to print, keep reading this week’s Social TV news. Read the rest of this entry »


Social TV Week In Review – Why the Hierarchy of Screens Matters

From smartphones to tablets to PC’s and TV’s, today’s homes are increasingly cluttered with displays. In reality, we rely on each for nuanced needs and so we establish our own personalized ‘screen hierarchy’. However, regardless of our individual preferences, the mobile or tablet device is most commonly referred to as the ‘second screen’ to the TV’s ‘first screen’.

Back in September of 2011, Mark Sorrell of Somethin’ Else argued that TV does not deserve to be at the top of the totem pole. If you’ve read anything about Social TV you’ve undoubtedly come across a preface to this effect; “We love watching TV and more than that, we love discussing it with our friends.” Sorrell suggests this ubiquitous refrain is a clever perversion of a more simple truth, “We love talking to our friends, and TV gives us something to talk about.” The restructured sentence places the emphasis on what is most important: human relationships. The TV set is secondary to the social experiences we are capable of having on our mobile, Internet connected devices.

I revive Sorrell’s words here, not to debate the taxonomy of screens, but to remind us of the takeaway; Great products and content emerge from a true understanding of audiences, their behavior and their needs. An exaggerated or conveniently phrased premise might draw attention from within the industry, but what is built from this premise will ultimately fail to connect with audiences.

And so the exploration of viewers’ behavior continues…

This week, the research consulting firm, Frank N. Magid Associates, identified a new trend – prime-time video access through mobile devices. The online market research agency, YouGov, released its own findings elaborating on the changing viewing habits of TV consumers. Videology reported a five-fold increase in the amount of video ads on connected TVs. While social video measurement firm, Visible Measures, reported that views of social video ads have risen 78% in Q1 of this year over Q4 2011 [see all studies below].

And that’s just the half…

In the articles below see who’s bringing Social TV to the next level: BillBoard Music Awards, Visa, The Olympics, American Idol, MTV Movie Awards, Amazon Instant Video, Tumblr, Simul TV, and more. Read the rest of this entry »


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 »