Benjamin Schwarz is one of the best professional in digital TV I know. Recognized international expert on converging media and technologies, he bloggs at CTOIC.net.
An old friend since the early days of IPTV in 2004,we often chat about the future of Television, and this time we talked about the current challenges of Social TV and Content Recommendation.
Drawing on this conversation, I would like to examine an approach for innovation in a disruptive market.
What is Social TV?
Social TV is digital interaction between people about television content or their digital interaction with that content, as defined by Futurescape.TV.
In my opinion, Social TV covers three main domains:
- Firstly is the domain of Content discovery where the EPG (Electronic Program Guide) is enhanced with Internet information web sites, and social recommendations through Twitter feed and Facebook. Social reviews nurture social curation, empowering viewers to filter and voice their opinions, and then to participate.
- Secondly there is Participative TV where viewers interact with the program for voting, betting, polling, playing, converse with characters and TV presenter, Live Tweet or Facebook chat, and buy things related to the program.
- Finally the domain of Device and cloud control is where you enable channel flicking from a smart phone, flinging stored or bookmarked content around the home, or the world, one-click options to bookmark or save shows to cloud storage (universal queue).
Social TV corresponds as well to the emergence of the Companion App on smart phone & tablets, making all the connections, discovery, participation, control and giving access to all sorts of TV viewing as well: “broadcast” TV, VoD, catch up, and streaming media.
Smart phones and tablets are called the second screen in this context. A second screen brings many benefits: it is convenient (“big picture on TV, Facebook on second screen”), intuitive, frictionless, personal, and of vital importance to many operators, it is already paid for and can be monetized!
While Social TV meets high usage growth, competition is fierce: more than “50 apps currently socialize your TV“!
Why is Social TV a disruptive market?
Social TV is not disruptive because of the technology, but by challenging several business models, such as the paradigm of TV ratings:
- Nielsen has analysed the relationsghip between social media buzz and TV ratings. It has shown “significant relationship throughout a TV show’s season among all age groups, with the strongest correlation among younger demos.
- Social media is a great measure of audience engagement, viewers engaging to become content ambassadors on online media, before, during, and after the show is aired.
- Social recommendations encourage interactivity, meaning stickiness to a program, and provide strong user behavior data, that can further processed to target users for advertising purpose and specific offerings.
- Second screen is the natural media for Social TV applications: we can assume program guide will shift progressively from TV press magazines to electronic device.
Some predict an even stronger impact, amending the story telling:
- Viewers’ engagement around TV shows will become so massive that it will start undermining the current ways of creating shows and become the main driver for new TV content” claims Anne-Marie Roussel, expert in Social TV at Sharp in Silicon Valley.
- It’s a major issue for broadcasters and networks. “The future isn’t either traditional or digital: it’s a feedback loop between the two. Television fans want to get involved and be counted. It’s how creative we are in engaging those fans – and keeping them connected – that will determine how potent and profitable we will be in the future.” says Kevin Reilly, President of Entertainment, Fox Broadcasting.
- “Content will then be created with social interaction in mind”, adds Anne-Marie, “the audience will be able to interact with the storyline”. Voting online for some game shows, and affecting the outcome of the show is just a start: welcome to the era of Transmedia!
What innovative path did we find in this fast evolving market?
We laid our design on 3 pillars: belief, metaphor, and model following Prof. Nonaka’s framework.
- Belief = our starting point was the belief that there is great value in social conversations around TV, but that this value is difficult to capture with the tools available to us, especially for non frequent users. Our idea was to filter out the noise so as to enable content discovery in real-time, by providing TV buzz, sorting trending TV programs and filtering related conversations, to give viewers the power to connect with each other and build relationship.
- Metaphor = Our metaphor was that of a filter, or a funnel.
- Model = from the outset, we based our approach on collaborative design. Rather than completing an end-user application, we focused our innovation endeavor on a social TV component, which could be embedded in various end-user applications and devices, letting others make value out of our data and build services on top of our platform. We developed this semantic engine, Blended TV in an open innovation framework, partnering with social media intelligence specialist Mesagraph, benefitting from the precious overview of designer Jean-Louis frechin (@nodesign), from sharp advices from Social TV experts (@kindoftv, MEFoucart, @gip89, @_advid_, @laouffir, @cgiorgi), and leveraging on HTML5 and interactive video skills from Djingle.
Our bet starts to win-back: developed in very short time, Blended TV is currently used or in the process of being used by various applications within Orange (Orange Sports web portal, Rendez-Vous TV / Le Mag TV companion app, Roland Garros app, Orange France web portal), and outside Orange (Broadcasters, TV metrics provider, TV guide).
The next challenge is the customer experience
Let us not deny it: the ultimate challenge for those completing an end-user Social TV service is to create a great customer experience, understanding customer behaviour, and providing simplicity and relevancy.
Consumers use a variety of sources to discover what’s personally relevant as explains Richard Edelman in “Media Cloverleaf”. I believe the user interface has to screen the complexity of the engine, reflected in the various spheres, and in the range of tools (recommendation tool, Social TV intelligence engine) that could be processed, learning to know the viewer better everyday.
Cory Bergman founder of Lostremote, a web site dedicated to Social TV, has a creative idea, displaying 4 kinds of recommendations :
- new episodes of shows you customarily watch;
- current shows your friends enjoy;
- trending shows across the larger population, and
- what your friends are watching now.”
Maybe like the four sides of a cube?