ADOTAS – At CES earlier this year, Social TV emerged on the scene as the seemingly perfect union of television and social media. The concept of people communicating while watching video content is nothing new, but major strides in technology have enabled the integration of online conversations, built into the actual television sets to drive interactive engagement both online and off. This week, Lost Remote, the first and largest industry site dedicated to social TV, will hold its inaugural conference in New York City on Tuesday, April 23 at the Museum of Jewish Heritage.
“Social TV is no longer an experiment, but a rapidly-emerging business,” said Cory Bergman, founder of Lost Remote. “[We have] been covering it since the beginning – while living it in our day jobs – and we’re thrilled to launch our first event. This show will combine creative, real-life ideas with a practical approach to putting social TV to work.”
While some people call it Immersive TV and others say Online TV or Interactive TV, social TV is essentially an extension of watching television with your close family and friends in the same room, only in this case, you are virtually connecting with people in different parts of the world or maybe your neighbor down the street, all with the help of the Internet.
According to the MIT Technology Review, back in 2010 (a long time ago in the tech world), Social TV was named one of the 10 most important emerging technologies, and the research publication followed up with a cover story in 2011 that discussed Social TV analytics and ramifications for the advertising industry.
Jack Flanagan, SVP of Innovid and previously at BlueFin Labs, a company that provides social TV analysis to networks and brands, had one of the most provocative prophecies for the year, predicting that at least one major national TV advertiser will put a secondary requirement around social engagement on their ad buys. In Flanagan’s vision of the immediate future, an advertiser like Coke would require a minimum number of tweets or social reactions before making their ad buys.
Ynon Kreiz, CEO of the Endemol Group, told a packed audience at the Digital Life Design (DLD) conference in January 2011: “Everyone says that social television will be big. I think it’s not going to be big — it’s going to be huge”
Not everyone is so eager to embrace the Social TV media format.
“Social TV is effectively Twitter and Facebook,” said Boxfish co-founder and CEO Eoin Dowling. “There have been many attempts over the last couple of years to build businesses off the back of the social TV hype; most are now in the dead-pool. The fact is that Twitter and Facebook own social TV. This has become more apparently with Twitter’s movements in the space; the Bluefin acquisition and deal with Nielsen are great moves toward monetizing their position. And they have a lot more to come. Facebook will be the dark horse here also; it has a great position and no doubt will reveal its intentions soon.
“Either way, ‘Social TV’ is a rubbish term,” Dowling said. “Please kill it.”
Industry Confusion Between ‘Social TV,’ ‘Second Screen’
While Social TV refers more to integrating social experiences within the television itself, the term “second screen” generally refers to applications that complement your TV viewing on another device. This could be watching the Super Bowl or Academy Awards on your television set while tweeting comments to your friends from your mobile device. Second Screen apps can be social, but they aren’t necessarily. Lots of second screen apps allow you to dive deeper into the experience, like the ESPN mobile app that show you player stats, or apps for TV series that dive into the world of the characters in real-time.
Social-television systems can for example integrate voice communication, text chat, presence and context awareness, TV recommendations, ratings, or video-conferencing with the TV content either directly on the screen or by using ancillary devices. Social television is very active area of research and development that is also generating new services as TV operators and content producers are looking for new sources of revenue.
A recent report from BI Intelligence examines how second-screen apps, social networks, and mobile sites will ultimately succeed in drawing significant audiences, analyze how they will begin to see some advertising dollars, look at who second-screen audiences are, explore the second-screen opportunity from the broadcaster angle, and detail the opportunity represented by audience analytics and second-screen commerce.
Really, we’re experiencing some confusion between second screen and social TV apps because we’re still defining what qualifies as social. It has become a broad, vague industry term that too many undeserving apps and services claim to offer, according to TweetTV founder and CEO Bradley Markham. “But the problem is that most of what is considered ‘social TV’ right now has little actual ‘social’ value,” he said. “A second screen that offers time-synced content in relation to a TV show, for example, is not social.”