People today are sharing to social networks while they’re watching TV. They’re communicating with friends in real time (chatting, IM, tweeting) and asynchronously (commenting and posting). A new report from Ooyala predicts that these social elements will become a part of the content itself, appearing inside video players, in apps or on second screens such as tablets or smartphones. This vision for the future of social TV focuses mostly on sharing and discovering while watching. How does this vision differ for viewers and publishers?
Social TV is about sharing. A study published in January by Yahoo’s advertising division found that 86% of people use the Internet on their mobile devices. Of those numbers, 40% are using social networking sites, 33% are using mobile apps and 37% are browsing the Internet.
In the land of social TV sharing, people are communicating with friends in real-time (chatting, IM, tweeting) while they comment on the content they’re watching. Eventually there may be a synchronization of sharing with video, which means users will be able to comment specifically on what they’re watching when they’re watching, check in to content and invite others to do the same, actually affect the outcome of a show as if it’s a “Name Your Own Adventure” story, earn badges and other social rewards that revolve around the show and in fact build a new social network completely focused around content interests.
Social TV is about discovery. The report also mentions discovery as a major reason for why people use social networks. The StumbleUpon and Twitter redesigns make clear that the user interface of social is becoming more about discovery.
In the age of social discovery, users will be able to request recommendations based on their social graph (think Facebook, especially) or specific social circles on networks like Google+. Social TV will be curated by you and your friends. Of course, this runs into the wrong idea of conflating the social graph with the interest graph. You and your friends do not necessarily share the same interests, though you may share the same social graph. This aspect of social TV will need more tweaking if it is truly going to work – it cannot assume that people who are friends share all of the same interests.
For publishers, the idea of social TV is stellar. If it works, it would make finding target audiences that much easier. Everything is based around the social graph. And with targeted program comes more highly targeted advertising, like users are already seeing on Facebook.
The second screen trend, which we cited back in July, relies on users watching TV while concurrently using a tablet or smartphone. Twitter has embraced its social role in TV, making it a natural place to go if you want to post thoughts and feedback about something you’re watching.
Readers, do you think there’s a future for social TV? Give us your thoughts in the comments section.