Social TV is dead; long live social TV

Nick Thomas/Ovum

OvumSocial TV was a hot topic for the TV and media industries a couple of years ago, but now with the growth in both live video and new distribution platforms, and through new tools such as video clipping, social TV has re-emerged as a priority for digital service providers such as Orange and Verizon.

Back in 2012, I chaired a conference looking at social TV – the convergence of broadcast TV and social media that looked set to revolutionize the TV industry. Despite the continued growth of social networking among consumers, more recently other “shiny” new things have caught the eye of executives and analysts alike. So is social TV dead? It appears not. The recent boom in live video has revitalized the debate around the relationship between social networks and broadcasters.

At TV Connect 2016 last week, Yann Ruello, head of TV and entertainment innovation at Orange, showed off the company’s latest social TV app, a response to what he describes as a “new era of social TV, perhaps a golden age.”

This new era, Ruello reckons, is triggered by three developments in particular: the rise of live video streaming (notably, Facebook Live); the importance of fandom to TV shows (citing the French show Touche pas mon poste, which claims to have “more fans than viewers”); and the data goldmine that the TV industry is now starting to access (such as via Nielsen’s new ratings system).

Ruello also mentioned some other key shifts of the last four years, all of which have moved the social TV movement on. The rise in the time spent on smartphones, including the time spent watching video content, has made the mobile – not the TV – the primary screen for many consumers. Video has become a central proposition not just for social networks such as Facebook, but also for messaging apps such as Snapchat, with billions of views per day. We have also seen the continued rise of non-broadcast video – from YouTubers and e-gamers, for example – which competes with TV for young audiences’ attention.

Orange’s response to these tectonic shifts is on the right lines, catering for customers who want multiscreen experiences around content and who are looking for what Ruello describes as “a perfect combination of TV and social network for a genuinely multiscreen experience.”

The importance of sharing is recognized in the integration of video clipping (“watch it, choose it, and share it”) within the Orange TV app, which allows viewers who are connected to their Orange set-top box to grab a clip from what they have been watching on TV and share it with friends via Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. While companies such as Grabyo help the broadcasters create clips that can be shared socially, Orange’s model allows consumers to create and share clips themselves.

However, large digital service providers such as Orange (or Verizon, which offers something similar in its Go90 app) face competition from platforms such as Snapchat, where viewers are already grabbing clips from the TV and sharing them. However, most of the video clipping on Snapchat is not licensed by content owners (although lawyers might argue that such activity constitutes “fair use”).

By contrast, Orange boasts licensing deals with broadcasters such as M6 and France Televisions specifically for clip-sharing. But the likes of Facebook and Snapchat look set to remain users’ preferred platforms for sharing video clips, unless (or until) they are pressurized into policing the reuse of video more stringently on their sites. That will, in turn, be another hot topic in 2016 and beyond.

Nick Thomas is practice leader of digital media at Ovum

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