An overview on the social TV opportunity

by Yudani.Riobo |  Sharing your TV experience with your friends and social community is more common each day, using smartphones and tablets at the same time you watch the content. This has coined a new term: “second screen”, the second element you use as the same time than the traditional TV.

Connected TV started to provide some type of applications than promoted social communications like Facebook, Skype or Twitter in the TV. During the last years, they were supporting advance browsers capabilities (very limited in the past) from Google Chromium, Webkit or Opera TV.

Some content owners and broadcasters are publishing contents in the web in order to help  sharing video clips on social platforms to monetise engagement and drive tune-in. Other are announcing hash-tags in the TV shows to help viewers to share their views in social networks.

Much of the investment in the earlier years of social TV went into standalone social TV apps. The industry believed these apps would provide an appealing and complimentary consumer experience which could then be monetized with ads. These apps featured TV listings, check-ins, stickers and synchronised second-screen content but struggled to attract users away from Twitter and Facebook

Defined as a concept in 2010 Social TV was named one of the 10 most important emerging technologies by the MIT Technology Review.

A proposal for a second generation of Social TV

Browsers are supporting WebRTC, a technology that enables real-time multimedia communications directly from a browser, with no need to install anything there. Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox or Microsoft Edge (among others) make this possible and services like Skype, Hangout or GoToMeeting support this feature that leverage collaboration.

Set-top-box manufacturers and connected TVs were adding web browsers to their platform during the last years. OperaTV, Chromium (Google) or WebKit are the engines that make web browsing a possibility using a TV. During the last months they have announced WebRTC support, so a new set of potential applications and tools can appear to leverage social TV, directly from the TV.

In this proposal we’ll try to explore how browsers in traditional devices (laptops, PC, etc.) with HTML5 streaming players (HLS or similar) and WebRTC apps can help content owners to provide the social capacities that today is provided by third parties. In addition, we’ll explore the current status of STB and connected TVs to provide this role, validating WebRTC browsers as the tools that is bringing collaboration and social skills to devices that were not thought for this.

Use case description

This innovative business case proposes a Social TV to enable real-time interaction to a group of users while watching live media contents, including voice, video conference or group chat right from their devices: smart TV, laptop, tablet or smartphone. Users can create private groups and share invitations with their contacts, friends and family to enjoy the same media content from different locations.

Show case description:

  • Anna opens the Social TV user application in the browser of her device (laptop, smart TV, tablet or smartphone) and sends an invitation to her friend Bob to watch some specific content.
  • Bob sees popping up on his device (laptop, smart TV, tablet or smartphone) the invite to watch the media content together. He opens a group chat including a common friend, Carol, and shares the link from the invite.
  • Carol receives a push notification on his device.
  • Accessing the link, all of them can now watch, chat and talking about the live stream, being physically in different places.

The social conversation, in the format the user chooses (text, chat or voice and image through video conferencing) will appear on the device in real time at the same time as the media content being broadcast.

This business case is an example of how to build a new generation of services where social tools based on web-communications and traditional broadcasting services can interop. It allows users to interact with a great variety of media content, from a basketball or tennis match, to a TV show or a cinema gathering, among many others.

Key benefits for broadcasters and content owners

Basically the use case describe below can bring these advantages for content providers:

  1. Keep the attention of the user on the screen. The current strategy based in a second screen is making a loss of viewers on ads, as young people or millennials are expending more time watching what is going on in his/her social networks in the mobile device than watching the content in the primary screen.
  2. When broadcasting premium content, where the user needs to pay to have access, the broadcaster can provide an additional feature. Imagine the broadcaster allows the customer that has paid with the possibility to share the content among some friends, who don’t need to pay. This is a way to promote customer with the possibility to share the investments with relatives and close friends.
  3. Broadcasters can force the users that were invited to share personal information (validation of mobile number, etc). For the service provider this represents an opportunity to collect data that can be used to promote marketing campaigns to get new customers. They own not only personal data, as they know that this people are friends of an existing customer, making cross-selling a possibility to have more success.