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 »

Advertisements