Named last year as one of the ten most important emerging technologies by the MIT Technology Review social TV is fast rising as one of the hottest topics since group buying. Ynon Kreiz, CEO of the Endemol group the largest independent production company in the world responsible for Big brother said Social TV is going to be huge.
But will social TV really live up to the hype? In this article we take a look at what social TV is, what the main trends are shaping TV, the challenges and the opportunities going forwards for media companies, businesses and marketers alike.
What is social TV?
Simply put, it’s about merging your social media networks to the TV. It’s making TV social–again. It’s about taking the water cooler effect and making this virtual, it’s about the empowered consumer viewing content when and where they want, deciding who they want to share it with and being able to do this all in real time.In essence it is a term that describes technology that supports communication and social interaction in either the context of watching television, or related to TV content.Viewers are now using social media to connect with the TV with content that matters to them. Then, as the MIT study shows, they are engaging in massive real-time conversations around those shows and learning to be a part of that conversation and it is a participatory culture as well as a personalised one. TV always been social and on the face of it TV and social media seem like a natural fit but if the TV industry is going to make the most of the opportunities it is going to have change quickly and learn the lessons of the music industry.
The Drivers shaping Social TV
Whilst the rise of the web has heralded talk about the death of TV the convergence of internet & TV has meant quite the reverse where social media is directly contributing to a spike in TV ratings around events. Indeed some TV executives are crediting the power of social media as being instrumental in transforming ratings and TV as we know it now it. So what has changed?
1. The empowered consumer
Perhaps the most important trend catalysed by social media is the need to share and contribute to the experience. People not only want to watch and consume, they actually want to actively connect to others while watching and be heard. They use their smartphones and tablets to share their thoughts and feelings on Twitter and their Facebook wall while watching TV, in preference to using their remote or SMS texting to vote in Live Talent shows. In essence viewers want to contribute, and have a bigger impact on the story than they have now?
Indeed a recent UK survey conducted by Digital clarity of mobile internet users below the age of 25 it was found that: Most use a mobile device to talk to friends about the show they are watching.The most common way to communicate is to use:
- Twitter 72 %
- Facebook 56%
- mobile applications 34 %
Whilst 62 % of Social TV users like a combination of all three.The study also found that 34 % of respondents described the trend as "fun,and 32 % said it made television "more interesting" ,With 42 % mentioned the "community" aspect of Social TV. Indeed it is the younger generations that are driving the change turning TV programs into real-time online events which you have to watch as they happen to be part of the experience with your friends.
2. The adoption of the second screen
Likewise in Australia a Nielsen Online Consumer survey of 5800 internet users said that 77% of respondents saying they “juggled at least 2 forms of media at once” especially the potent mix of TV & web (tablet, smartphone, laptop) When people did two-screen, 65 per cent said the internet had most of their attention, with only 14 per cent saying the TV did.
3. The Rise of Twitter TV
In recent months the rise of Twitter and TV has been quite staggering to the extent that I think it is fair to say that TV has a Synonymous relationship with Twitter whilst some commentators have gone a step further by crediting Twitter as redefining real-time TV. Not only does twitter allow you to get Instant feedback on shows but it allows the viewer to feel plugged in to the experience and be part of the conversation.
James Franco, host of this year’s Oscars, put Twitter into overdrive for fans by tweeting before and during the show. Indeed during the 2011 Oscars, there were over 10,000 tweets per minute-with the event racking up 1.8 million tweets overall. Oscar hashtags such as #OscarsRealTime and #SatisfyingWin further extending the conversation.
Not to miss out on the action MTV brought back the Twitter tracker for this year’s MTV Movie awards (see image) parsing a barrage of tweets in real-time to come up with the top trends of the event, from the top actors and actresses to the most-talked-about movies... Throughout the broadcast, MTV plugged various hashtags to correspond with the moment, with #MovieAwards being the predominate theme.
However it is not just the biggest blockbuster live-events where the numbers are always impressive but this water cooler effect has spread to other genres of shows that people care about. In a recent study into behaviour on Twitter by British content discovery company TV genius it was found that Over a six day period in the UK there were over 38,500 tweets about TV shows, with 90 different shows receiving more than a tweet a minute while they aired.
Clearly, many consumers have already bought into the idea of social TV – and are busy sharing what they love and hate on Twitter.One of the interesting facets the data reveals is that the show with the highest audience rating doesn’t always receive the most tweets. Twitter trends reveal shows that viewers wouldn’t necessarily know to watch. But they may want to tune in if they know that there is an extra juicy episode of a soap playing or an interview generating lively debate.People are naturally curious and want to see what all the chatter is about. Channelling Twitter effectively could curate content discovery habits, encouraging viewers to tune into a programme they might not watch otherwise.
Twitter has also made itself a mainstay in the newsroom, often being the first to break news stories with over 77% of TV newsrooms now use Twitter. In fact, many news channels use the videos and images shared by viewers on Twitter to add meaning to their reports. Indeed the integration of social media into the newsroom has taken a step further with the launch of Al Jazeera’s social media cantered program ‘the stream’ which is probably the most ambitious integration of Twitter into a news program to date.
According to Twitter’s Chloe Sladden, "What we’re seeing now is that Twitter is, in fact, about flocking audiences back to a shared experience, and that usually means a live one…If you’re not watching live — and reading the comments from friends, your favourite celebrities, and even total strangers via Twitter — you’re missing half the show." Furthermore she says, "In the future, I can’t imagine a major event where the audience doesn’t become part of the story itself."
Considering using Twitter in connection to promote your TV program then check Digital agency Wiredset Twitter TV best practices below:
4. Facebook & Social TV
In recent months Facebook has made a big play for TV & Mark Zuckerburg Speaking at the EG8 technology forum in Paris recently said that TV, music and books are the next “media experiences” that will be revolutionized by social media. “I hope we can play a part in enabling those new companies to get built, and companies that are out there producing this great content to become more social”.
At MIPTV Facebook outlined four key ways that the platform can be used to encourage social TV behaviour:
4.1 Building TV communities: Top Gear demonstrates how a TV show can successfully leverage Facebook as marketing and commercial vehicle. To guarantee conversation after each episode ends, Top Gear posts clips of the last episode on Facebook. This reminds viewers about the highlights, and helps fans share and talk about each episode on Facebook. Additionally, Top Gear posts behind scenes video clips, making the fans feel part of a privileged community. Top gear has also fully integrated social plugins to its site & one photo on the site received 10,000 likes.
4.2 Check-ins. Not to be left out on the hype attached to checking into shows along with Miso and Get Glue Facebook has also announced you can now check into your favourite TV show as well as places and with Top Gear for examples, a user would be able to see that actually ten of their friends are also watching Top Gear at the same and helps drive conversation.
4.3 Facebook EPG. Facebook could also provide a platform for a personalised electronic programme guide (EPG), complete with check-ins, reminders, personalised recommendations, and social integration. A social EPG could take the form of a Facebook app, check-in, or game. Facebook would like to see the EPG featuring filters based on time, and personalisation based on the user profile. For instance, the ability to browse EPG based on friends, like shows directly, and browse top ranked TV could prove compelling associate like with TV shows. The Facebook EPG would essentially act as a gateway to content discovery. By integrating social trends and friend’s preferences, users could discover new, relevant content. UK specialist TV research company TV Genius has developed some excellent Facebook EPG apps for just this purpose see below:
4.4 Facebook as a second screen: The UK game show Million Pound Drop was supported by a wildly successful Facebook game. The show estimated that 8–10% of the TV audience played the game. The game served as an opportunity for advertiser sponsorship, helping monetise the second screen. The game featured social components that let players compete against their friends. The game was integrated into the live-event as well: the live show featured a real-time game leader board. Players were also incentivised to play; the best players had a chance to go on the show and play. 8–10% of TV audience plays the game.
Likewise American Idol is piloting a programme where users can login with Facebook and vote for free. Like the Million Pound Drop game, the voting is monetised through a sponsorship. American Idol is looking to further monetise the system in the future by allowing users to buy votes based on Facebook credits.
5. Social TV Apps
One of the main drivers of social TV has been the rampant proliferation of mobile social & TV apps which fall into two main categories:
5.1 TV 'check-in' apps: 'Check-in' with apps like Get Glue, Miso, PHILO, IntoNOW, TV Chatter and new Aussie kid on the block Twelevision, to share what you’re watching with your friends and, in some cases, earn social currency/rewards.
Miso CEO Somrat Niyog is aiming the service not just live events but the long tail of TV programs so if you are watching Dexter for the first time you can engage with other fans to see what they said around particular episodes. As more and more TV becomes a “what you want when you want it ‘experience apps like this make sense to engage and add to the viewing experience no matter when you get into watching your favourite new TV series. Rival service ‘get glue’ has also been quick to run promos around key TV shows like scfi classic show the Fringe where subscribers have the opportunity to win props from the show as part of a promo for loyal fans.
5.2 Synced iPad apps: enable viewers to get additional content while you’re watching a show with a show specific app such as The Kennedy’s, Oscars, Royal Wedding or a via specific TV network (NBC & Discovery).Perhaps one of the best known ones in the Greys Anatomy app which using the audio watermarks that TV programs typically use for tracking TV ratings, the app can figure out where a viewer is in a program and offer up corresponding content on the iPad. This means that in addition to using the app when watching the show live, users can also use the app when watching on a time-shifted copy of the program or when fast-forwarding or rewinding the show.
The iPad since its launch is quickly becoming a unique second screen device and a new study by Nielsen reveals where people are using their iPads, and it’s even more evidence that tablets are natural “second screen” devices in front of TV. Compared to smartphones and e-readers, iPads are more TV-friendly, although television also ranks as the top “time spent” (20%) and “situational use” (68%) for smart phones.
It is a trend not lost on Daniel Heaf, Digital Director of the BBC Worldwide, who said in a Beet TV interview that he sees tablets as an amazing opportunity for long form content.
Expect the iPad to grow in importance as a quick and easy way to leverage existing TV behaviour and enhance the viewing experience whilst TV manufactures rush to get app content launched on their respective connected TV sets.
6. Connected TV & the battle for the living room
At the moment 50% of all TVs currently being sold are internet-capable, and this figure could be 80% of all televisions within three to four years’ time. Convergence is happening now. In the near future there won't be much of a distinction between web content and TV content consumption as web and mobile applications will cross over to TV to deliver in-screen interaction and formats.Google are rushing to upgrade Google TV to integrate their Android platform system, YouTube is upgrading its media channels to include more hi-quality content, Microsoft with its X-Box live community and with its recent acquisition of Skype and Yahoo with its acquisition of Social TV app ‘Into now’. The TV manufactures are also cutting in and have launched connected TV ‘s with their own apps platforms whilst there are over 100 companies globally currently vying in the IPTV space along with cable and satellite, along with traditional broadcast channels all pushing hard for their slice of the social TV market. Web enabled games consoles like WII & PS3 are also shifting focus whilst X-box has been allowing people to gather in online groups around streamed TV programming since 2010. Not to be left out are the numerous social TV start-ups in the space like Boxee, Starling TV, Matcha.TV & Bee.TV who are all making a play for the social TV space. Only time will tell who becomes the dominant players in the social TV space BUT one thing is for sure the rate of adoption of social features across the various platforms is happening on an aggressive rate.
So what does the Social TV User look like?
In order to better understand the those people out there watching television today and why social TV is relevant, User Insight began a Social TV project which has mapped out the key social TV user personas to help us understand how social media is changing TV. How do the key user vary in their behaviour ? Results to date from this innovative project have shown five key personas based on technology, social media usage and enthusiasm for TV see below
Moving forwards it will be interesting to see how quickly what new personas emerge–which one are you?
what are the opportunities in the multiplatform social TV arena?
1. Building Brand loyalty: by sharing and driving real-time conversation brands have the opportunity to become facilitators when consumers have the need to share their experience. We have seen this with this with the concept of the check-in in Social TV apps which has evolved from a sign of presence in one place to gradually becoming a way to share participation in an experience.
2. Leveraging online communities: The big opportunity is to learn how to leverage the communities that exist outside of TV and their owned media assets to their advantage. Whether contributing in real time, via the TV set or via a second screen device, creates opportunities for people to become even more socially engaged with TV programming and nowhere better is this done than leveraging online communities. They provide real time feedback; act as a focus group, sharing content and recommending shows to their friends there by driving viewing figures especially during live events. Ultimately is about creating deeper relationships with your biggest fans.
Here’s a great example of USA Network utilising Facebook and twitter via its own onsite “Chatter” viewing companion which it uses for nine of its TV series. It integrates Twitter and viewers can connect with other viewers — and in some cases, actors and producers from the show — while the show is airing.
For its popular shows USA Network also as a Facebook app and an iPad app. The web and Facebook app experiences allow viewers to switch between three different views — what viewers are saying, a curated feed of official accounts or all of the above. You can authenticate via Facebook or Twitter, and post to either or both accounts — or just keep it inside the Chatter experience.
3. The Gamification of Social TV: The opportunity exists to produce new TV shows that are designed to be social from the ground up which are more interactive & participatory through gamification. Gary Hayes presentation at the recent Australian TV show conference provided some great examples of the different levels of gamification. Not only can you include elements of gaming mechanics (competition), prize offers (awards, rewards) and participation voting but the opportunity to make TV a fully immersive experience can now be fulfilled.
Two such examples are where live users connect to the show and Users become characters or play roles in the show. In Destination truth Fans tweeted things for the actors to do and see where they were in real time. The viewers are also going to be able to track the teams in real time while they’re investigating. Whereas Beckinfield a sci-fi web series in which anyone can create and play a character build an audience and collaborate on storylines through social media. Called Mass Participation Television It is a blending of the technology and entertainment industries.
4. New business models & monetisation opportunities: So far, most of the money in social TV has been generated through sponsorship. For instance, in 2011 the Oscars ran a successful integrated social campaign to encourage viewership. The most significant part of this campaign was Mercedes Benz sponsorship of the GetGlue event which enabled event check-ins on its website through Get Glue’s widgets and users accessed stickers directly through Oscars.com which Fans have to “peel off” Mercedes-Benz branding to unveil the actual Oscar stickers.
Other Increased monetisation opportunities with a two screen approach include in-app advertising which falls into three main categories:
- In-App Advertising: Display advertisements inside the applications.
- In-App Purchasing: Leading to in-app purchasing inside the application.
- In-App Subscriptions: Paid for subscription video on demand.
Developed by Syzygy The iPad app transforms the users handset (tablet/mobile) into a socially and commercially-enabled TV remote. The app brings the possibility of user interaction within television to life with a look at how social integration may work in the future.
5. Measurement & Social Data: Social TV also offers ample opportunities for extra media value, measurements and conversion. One of the main opportunities is around social graph data for content recommendation and TV viewing behaviour. This wealth of data can be used to target and identify future opportunities and potential new services to drive action. Measuring services will be critical moving forward to analyse the impact social TV is having and agency Wiredset this year developed its Social TV charts measurement system.Trendrr looks at data from Facebook, Twitter, Miso and GetGlue, combining mentions with check-ins to determine “total activity.” You can also drill down into sentiment analysis by show. There’s much more data available in Trendrr’s premium service — “most anticipated” shows and competitive graphs — which it offers to television clients.
6. Every brand to become a media company: With Social technologies it has never been easier to produce your own content quickly and easily. Two great examples of brands that have transformed themselves into modern day media companies are Billabong & Red Bull who are now competing with more traditional media companies in the space.
The opportunity going forward is for social TV to proliferate to the enterprise sector in the next few years. A great example of this exists here is Sydney in the shape of Evo TV who have built a media company off the back of the financial services sector not exactly renowned for its willingness to invest in the social media. Their ‘no more practice’ show was the first ever reality TV show for financial advisers with over 50,000 views over the entire series.
So what will the future of TV look like in 2020?
1. The Decline of traditional TV as we know it. The concept of TV as we know has changed and will be in the future over multiple platforms and social will be designed into all TV formats as a natural part of the viewing experience.
2. TV will be al a carte & you will be able to pay to avoid Ads. It will only be a few years away where you will be able to subscribe to your favourite TV show and pick and choose what show you watch based on your tastes as part of a subscription package and watch them on any device anywhere anytime.
3. Global communities will dominate media. Global social networking applications will continue to proliferate into the video arena, providing communal interaction and real-time ratings and recommendations, creating shared experiences and across geographic boundaries.
4. Every TV network will have a social media Team. Every launch will have a dedicated social media plan. Two years ago, there was nothing. Today, social is a core component of how the US networks do their job. This will spread globally across broadcast media.
5. Most viewing will be on personalised screens. The opportunities around Tablets and touch screens are only just beginning and more audio and video will be consumed on personal devices than on the traditional shared living room display, which will become more multifunctional and less defined by the television viewing experience.
6. Mobile will be the number one device people view TV on with programs made specifically for the format. In Tokyo there are currently more than 1.5 million paid subscribers for TV shows specifically made for mobile which will only spread globally between now and 2020.
7. Transmedia story telling will be the norm. Storytelling across multiple forms of media with each element making distinctive contributions to a fan's understanding of the story world. By using different media formats, transmedia creates "entry points" through which consumers can become immersed in a story world. Watch out for the new Fox8 series ‘Slide’ which launches in August a great example of home grown transmedia storytelling via Hoodlum entertainment.
8. Social Commerce on TV will be ubiquitous via new business model like GOAB
9. Touch devices will replace remotes: the awful point and click will be replaced by touch sensitive, interactive devices including tablets and multipurpose smartphones.
10. All TVs will be connected to the web.
Social TV is important because social media will bring together the TV and the digital world. People already use their TV’s socially: they either watch it together as a family, or watch a show separately but talk about them together at a later time. So Social TV is about bringing real-time interactivity back to TV, which has been lacking in recent years.The people who used to sit in front of a television and talk about their experiences to friends, family and co-workers are now empowered to do so right here, right now. Perhaps more important however, people are building full-fledged networks around them, creating a distribution channel of audiences with audiences and their reach is as influential as it is infinite.As WIRED magazine recently stated, TV is moving from a “vast wasteland” to a “vast garden". Today, “TV is a crazy, weed-filled, wonderful, out-of-control garden.” It is time to rethink TV. It is time to imagine what it could be and redefine it for the participatory culture of tomorrow.
What do you think do you think? How important will social TV be?
Want to learn more about Social TV then check out the following resources: