Back to the Future of TV: Emerging Social TV Opportunities for Service Providers

August 9, 2012 - 0 Comments

By Bill Gerhardt, Director, IBSG Service Provider

The future of TV is already upon us.  Driven by technology advances, business model challenges, and consumer behavior, over the next five to ten years, TV as we know it will be a thing of the past.

However, many of the changes identified by Cisco IBSG in our work on the “Future of TV” will occur much more quickly. One such dimension is Social TV.  Looking back 20 to 30 years, we see that TV began as a social tool.  It’s what we gathered around on Sunday night to watch family programming. It’s what we talked about at work on Mondays.  It’s what advertisers utilized to make an impression on viewers.

Today, we have lost some of those social aspects of TV viewing. Instead, we often watch TV alone, in rooms that are not optimized for gathering, our friends and family dispersed in far flung places. As such, advertisers are losing their ability to extend their message through the power of conversation and discussion, challenging their effectiveness. Cisco’s IBSG’s 2011 study The Future of Television: Sweeping Change at Breakneck Speed predicted that Social TV would become increasingly embedded in TV experiences.  Two of the study’s 10 predictions involved Social TV:  #5 Don’t Just Watch, Get Involved and #9 Watch Together Virtually.  Social TV attempts to take us “back to the future” of TV, rekindling those social experiences of yesteryear in a way that is more powerful and aligned with today’s realities.

To bring some clarity to the Social TV opportunity, Cisco IBSG has developed a comprehensive taxonomy of Social TV use cases that could be executed today (see Figure 1).  We have identified nine solutions based on when someone is being socially engaged (before, during and after viewing) and with whom they are being socially engaged (friends, media and 3rd parties):

Who’s Watching What When: Analytics and interfaces can help people search what to watch or with whom to share their viewing experiences. Advances are integrating consumers’ social network and their viewing experience, providing them with valuable real time, previewing knowledge.

Program Influence: Social communities/platforms offer users the chance to influence future programming, including alternate endings, new storylines, and character/actor screening.  Important aspects include “extension of the story” and “participation in the story.”

Figure 1:  Nine Examples of Social TV Use Cases That Can Be Implemented Today.

Source: Cisco IBSG, 2012

Peer/ Expert Review: People who are not quite sure what to watch can see how people like them, or people they respect, felt about a particular show.  Was it sad, funny, child friendly, a re-run?

Integrated Communications and Apps: These capabilities create a bridge between viewing and conversing using voice, video, and messaging innovations. Watching “together,” viewers can talk trash during sporting events or share a joke with siblings, no matter how far away they are physically.

Media Voting: Using Social TV for interactive voting can provide more convenient access to proven revenue streams tied to reality TV programs.

Targeting and Interactive Advertising: The more advertisers know about the target audience, the more they will be able to create specific ads that resonate with these target consumers.  Moreover, the use of interactive tools and viral/social media can enable more effective and accelerated marketing campaigns.

Community Sites: For those interested in the latest gossip about their favorite shows, there are increasing numbers of blogs and sponsored sites that allow for open sharing and discussions. These community sites are easy to set up and can take on a life of their own with minimal ongoing management requirements.

Character Friending / Following: With the success of social sites such as Twitter and Facebook, fans can stay abreast of the latest announcements from characters and actors anytime, anywhere.

Viral Merchandising / Marketing: These capabilities allow direct monetization of goods associated with TV programs and/or advertising. The new interactive sales revenue streams can be shared with the media owners.

Social TV will create a series of new innovations that will greatly enrich the viewing experience for consumers in the future. Social TV will also create new business models for service providers, media companies and other parts of the value chain. There appears to be room for early collaboration in this space. The critical next steps will be to determine which solutions to pursue, in which order and with which partners.

For a more complete analysis of opportunities created by the future of TV, read “The Future of Television: Sweeping Change at Breakneck Speed.”

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