Social TV will push ‘regular’ TV off the cliff

Wheels are already turning in respond to the latest trend brought on by social and mobile apps: the ‘Second Screen‘. Also called co-viewing, layered content, back channel, and not limited to just two screens, this is something that evolved naturally as users saw the value of viewing television while using mobile devices.

It is becoming much more intentional as advertisers, software and manufacturers realize the risks to the status quo and opportunities social TV brings for investment. Money is already flowing to apps like Zeebox, which just struck a deal with Viacom last week but also has deals with NBC and HBO.

If this seems clunky or distracting, consider this Nielsen report that find that 86% of mobile users (and 92% of those 13-24 years old) use mobile devices simultaneously with TV. A full 25% say they’re using their mobile device in ways directly related to what they’re watching. The numbers are significant and point to a revolutionary change underway.

In the moment

Imagine the business model of advertising clothing worn during a sitcom, movie, reality show or soap opera, or offering a trip to an exotic location featured in a travel program…or any program, while it plays before viewers’ eyes. The possibilities for directly marketing to people while they’re in the moment of highest interest can’t be ignored.

But it isn’t just about advertising. There are companies like OnSports that saw this possibility before many others and developed a sports app that makes it effortless to follow personalized reports, stats and scores that can be shared socially. We showed in a recent Harvard Business Review article how this becomes a disintermediation of the commentary we love and hate and gives the freedom to create your own.

In a clever new model, OnSports is now, “The social sports book” offering online wagering for those who’d like to literally put skin in the game. Their description?

Challenge your friends to instant sports bets on your favorite teams and players, plus get live scores and sideline photos for every game you care about. Win big, medal up, be a baller, and gain global sports fame.

The fun of peer-to-peer wagering, without the bookie or Las Vegas has enormous appeal. Think about the fun of betting based on bragging rights, who’s ‘up’ or ‘down’ or as a way to see if you’d ever actually make money in the ‘real world’.

TV’s response

How do we know how well the second screen works? The networks are working to combat this by offering ‘side content’  twitter streams on-screen or simul-casted web content related to what’s being shown in their programs. But can they really compete on a one-way medium with the two-way conversations of the mobile device without the help of companies like Zeebox or launching their own similar services? I doubt it.

Maybe this will hasten the move away from broadcast and cable toward truly internet-based content. The flexibility is so much greater and the only real obstacle is the sheer number of people who still prefer getting their content the old way. Bandwidth will also need to get better if we’re going to be happy watching full-speed sports delivered through the web.

Either way, television as we know it is in trouble, not from the loss of viewers, but from the distraction away from the conversation and advertisement that keeps the lights on. Once your attention is divided or the best information is coming from social media, you can turn off the volume, and thus the ads.

It will be interesting to see who sees this coming and who ends up getting clobbered. Just ask print media and book stores how that felt.

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Categories: Entertainment, Social / Collaboration

Author:Jeanne Roué-Taylor

I'm fascinated by disruptive technology and its impact on our world. I manage sales operations for an excellent startup with a unique team of highly experienced data scientists.

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12 Comments on “Social TV will push ‘regular’ TV off the cliff”

  1. Steve Sampson
    October 14, 2012 at 4:21 am #

    If brands wanted user inter-action opportunities, the time is now, right in their face.Twitter is the “accidental media company”. In fact, its not a media company at all. At heart they are software providers. Great achievement, but it doesn’t make them a media business and maybe someone needs to tell them that. If a grown up media company doesn’t steal a march on Twitter across key verticals this year I will be amazed. Dual screen is another fantastic opportunity. Zeebox at al are for the TV obsessed, great tech. Zeebox claims 1.5M UK downloads and 600,000 active users in over a year. That’s not a huge take-up in my view. There are countless people on twitter with more followers than that.

    • Jeanne Roué-Taylor
      October 14, 2012 at 6:50 am #

      Thank you for your comment, Steve. I agree with your stance on Zeebox and suspect you’re right about Twitter as well.

  2. October 15, 2012 at 2:00 pm #

    Great piece, Jeanne. The fun part about the sports market (I work for OnSports), is that most fans and viewers are watching these events live. Marketers and advertisers can guarantee that there is a large live audience watching sporting events, unlike a lot of other DVR-able programming. Watching a game while interacting with your friends across the globe (in real-time) about whether player X will score in the next minute is an experience that is really only achievable in the sports market. This is a sweet spot that provides an authentic and natural ‘second screen’ experience.

  3. October 22, 2012 at 12:07 pm #

    Love the write up. RE Steve’s comment above, I’m not so sure Twitter is not a media company. Not in the traditional sense, perhaps. But who says the nature of being a media company has not changed? I mean, just because the TV networks had the technology to broadcast didn’t make them “not a media” company when they began stretching the limits of what constituted technology back then to reach their audiences. Same for cable companies who followed after them. True the networks made much of their content and Twitter doesn’t do that. But who says that being the conduit for user generated content does not a media company make?

  4. roberto d. l.
    October 23, 2012 at 8:37 am #

    Right now, “social” (Twitter streams, etc.) are being layered over on the 2nd screen. The engagement stats actually are not all that good. The reality is that consumers/audiences are multi-tasking and their attention is being divided.

    Technically, the human brain is quite good at this. But, it’s equally good at filtering out “noise” (traditional television ads); so that a User may be only tracking the approach of the ad ending, but, not the ad content itself (think of watching HULU, and tabbing back-forth during ads, to only notice the countdown-seconds in the upper left hand corner).

    If “first screen” television wants to grab the eyeballs on the 2nd Screen, it needs to do something unique and RELATED to the first screen content (both programming and ad units). It needs to naturally and cohesively extend that experience.

    That requires, time, money, creative thought and probably breaks a few Union regulations (for writers, directors and talent).

    Unfortunately, television executives are not all that dissimilar from the old Blockbuster executives, who kept their head in the sand for years while Netflix and Redbox whittled away at their market share, eventually making Blockbuster a dinosaur.

    Here, the 2nd Screen isn’t competing head on with the 1st Screen, but it is competing for User attention, especially on ad units. Unless 1st screen ad units are synchronized with 2nd screen extended (compelling) offers, then yes, the value and dollars flowing to TV from Madison Avenue will start to fade.

    • October 23, 2012 at 8:39 am #

      Well put, Roberto. It always starts as a distraction to the business but then gains momentum. Television should be coming up with ways to embed social commentary into each user’s screen similar to what’s done in video games. It won’t be easy but it will be about survival.

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