2012 Trend Spotting: Social TV

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(Image by Read/Write/Web, based on research from Yahoo!)

The rise of social TV creates dynamic implications across media type. Viewers are commenting about or engaging with other viewers of TV programs real time via their smartphones, tablets and laptops. This unprecedented integration of diverse broadcast and social media types changes programming, advertising and equipmemt.

In essence, social media and instant messaging forms a massive TV back channel, empowering people to talk about a program as it airs. Programmers see this as an opportunity to engage the audience on the back channel with value added content and live interaction. As a result, engagement has increased.

Last Spring HBO had Howard Stern on Twitter while airing his movie, Private Parts. The effort caused a huge viewing spike for HBO. Talk and reality programs like The Voice and Conan O’Brien are integrating social commentary and feedback into their programming.

Twitter has embraced its role as a social TV back channel. It has created an agreement with the X Factor to create voting features to drive the program’s outcome. Further, Twitter is actively seeking to additional TV programming relationships.

Apps, Ads and Gear

Applications like GetGlue are letting viewers check into shows, and comment as they run. Updates can be broadcasted onto Twitter and Facebook, extending a program’s viewership. On the content creator side, Trendrr is helping programmers and advertisers better understand how stakeholders are using these diverse media.

At the basis of the social TV shift is a transition from passive audiences to engaged, interacting stakeholders, but in addition they are engaged in other non-related content. In essence, when the ads are on, the viewer is gone.

This means that advertisers will be further challenged to evolve their content beyond the 30 second spot. They, too, may be forced to create value added interactive content, similar to some of the Super Bowl ads developed over recent years. This will increase the quantity of high quality branded content developed for social channels.

In the 1997, speculators debated wether a PCTV was possible at the Consumer Electronics Show. Fourteen years, later that vision is coming true. Equipment manufacturers are racing to integrate social elements into their TV equipment, and TV into their computing devices (small and large). Perhaps the most anticipated development here is the possible unveiling of Apple iTV.

Implications

Clearly, more programmers will engage in social TV programming in 2012. Viewership is going down, generally, and social increases real-time engagement. But there is a saturation point that has not been achieved yet. Sooner or later, adding social interaction into a program will no longer be novel, and can’t guarantee a spike.

At the same time, programming that doesn’t offer some sort of back channel value add will risk those who have been accustomed to second screen engagement. According to Yahoo! 86% of smartphone users engage on their phones while watching TV, and recent statistics show smartphone use in the U.S. has surpassed 40%. This is a strong minority of TV viewers.

It also means the continued commercialization of the social web will increase. As media companies seek to harness and own the conversations about their shows, casual peer-to-peer engagement will become less natural. And this may cause conversations about non branded content to become more private as conversationalists seek less noise.

What do you think of social TV? How will it change media?

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