TV Broadcasters divided over Social TV Strategy

London: Digital media innovation research company Futurescape reveals that television broadcasters around the world are deeply divided over their strategy for Social TV.

Do they partner with Facebook and Twitter? Or invest in Social TV startups and build their own platforms for more control?

The key findings are published today in the fourth edition of Futurescape’s comprehensive strategy report, Social TV. The report analyses how social networks and viewer interaction around TV are radically transforming the television industry.

A key trend in the first half of 2012 is that some broadcasters are moving to counteract Facebook’s and Twitter’s power over TV audiences. These broadcasters are investing in Social TV companies and launching their own Social TV platforms.

Others, however, are following a diametrically opposed strategy of partnering with the social networks to facilitate viewer interaction. This is most evident for the kinds of major news and sports programming that viewers discuss on second screen devices during the live broadcast. These include the US elections in November and the world’s biggest sports event, the Olympic Games.

Major TV companies globally are investing in Social TV startups

Leading TV and media companies are investing in Social TV startups for an inside track on new business and viewer engagement models and to take more control over Social TV.

January 2012, News Corp-controlled British pay-TV operator BSkyB took a 10% stake in Social TV startup zeebox, which is using the funding to expand into the US TV market.

In April, Fox Broadcasting took a stake in ACTV8, which began launching apps for several Fox prime time series, beginning with sit-com New Girl.

Social TV service ConnecTV launched in June, backed by US media owners including Cox Media, E W Scripps, Gannett Broadcasting, Hearst Television and Meredith Corp.

July saw Network Ten announce a joint venture with zeebox for the Australian market. Rival broadcasters Seven and Nine already have their own Social TV initiatives.

More broadcasters are taking control of Social TV on their own platforms

Broadcasters are increasingly integrating Social TV within their own digital platforms, Web sites and second screen apps. They claim that curating conversations about their shows gives fans more focused and enjoyable discussions than on Twitter or Facebook. However, it also enables them to counteract the social networks’ dominance in Social TV.

In July, NBC launched Chatline for its Dateline news magazine show. This app works on PCs, mobiles and tablets, and brings together viewers via Facebook, Twitter, GetGlue and the Dateline Web site. Other broadcaster Social TV platforms include CBS Connect, HBO Connect, Oxygen Connect and USA Network Character Chatter.

Other broadcasters are pursuing a partnership strategy with Facebook and Twitter

Many broadcasters have extensively integrated Twitter into their Social TV activity, typically by showing hashtags as part of a show’s transmission to encourage viewer participation.

CNN and the BBC, however, have both recently announced major deals with Facebook. The social network has developed a new and more aggressive strategy of moving into the Social TV space and closing Social TV deals with broadcasters.

CNN is partnering with Facebook for the forthcoming US elections. This will include launching an app that lets Facebook users both commit to voting and endorse
specific candidates.

Like news, sports is a major driver of Social TV interaction. The BBC is integrating TV streams broadcast live from the 2012 London Olympics into Facebook. This will enable Facebook users to view, discuss and share the video entirely from within Facebook.

NBC stands out as a broadcaster with a dual strategy. It is developing its own platform, with Chatline, and working with TV interaction company Shazam to give viewers second screen information for its Olympics coverage. Yet it also has a Facebook deal for the Olympics: this includes broadcasting a Facebook Talk Meter of Facebook users’ reactions to the games.

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