This time last year we began a research and development project on social TV for one of our media clients. It was apparent then that social TV had begun to significantly change the way that consumers were watching television – and increasingly seeking out access to engaging and socialised experiences in all areas of media consumption. The second screen (whether laptop or mobile) was being increasingly used – with Twitter and other social networks – as an accompaniment to TV viewing.
In response, broadcasters, content providers and digital start-ups rapidly became interested in how this new space could offer fresh opportunities to enhance viewer experience, driving interactivity, community and talkability around programme brands.
We identified the appearance of three basic types of contenders: convergent TV services (YouView, Google TV and Verizon FiOS in the US), dedicated devices and technologies (Boxee, Popbox, Roku) and social TV applications online or on mobile (Tunerfish, Miso, Philo).
In the UK, perhaps the most prominent development in recent months has been the advent of live ‘playalong’ scenarios on the web, for example Monterosa’s work on Million Pound Drop (C4) and America’s Next Top Model (Living).
With the continued growth and diversification of web and mobile applications and integration of social networking into all aspects of our lives, 2011 is being predicted to be the year of social TV. Large media firms and broadcasters cannot afford to get left behind in the race to establish a sound (and preferably revenue-driving) business model, and new start-ups seem to be appearing every day.
Most are in the US and many remain in beta testing: Tunerfish, Starling, Miso, Philo, Yap.TV, and perhaps 2011 newcomer Into_Now. GetGlue has been around longer – since 2007 – and offers a broader proposition of entertainment ‘check-ins’ (TV, movies, music, books) which saw its user base grow from 30,000 to over 650,000 in 2010.
But it’s very much anybody’s game at this point. Features like check-ins, points/badge systems, real-time chat, voting, social network integration and exclusive content are being offered, but it will be the users/viewers that decide what type of social TV experience they prefer. Ultimately, second screen social content must add to, not distract from, the TV viewing experience. This added value must also be meaningfully extended to advertisers and sponsors on whose support these social platforms depend.