Social TV & The New UI: Content Discovery In The Connected TV Environment

written by: Richard Kastelein

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Guest editorial by  Nick Thomas from Informa

Social TV is clearly making its mark on the way we watch TV by creating a more interactive viewing experience for the end user. This dedicated conference stream at the IP&TV World Forum focuses on the up and coming subject of Social TV and in particular, one of the hottest topics of the moment – the evolution of the user interface.

Bringing together viewpoints from major thought leaders at Orange, Zon and BT, plus a deployment case study from PCCW discussing the Asian market, this session will examine how Social TV and the New UI are impacting on content discovery. Anthony Rose, CTO and Co Founder of Zeebox will also give the industry an update on its revolutionary social platform.

Topics to be covered include:

  • User interface design
  • Payment models for the new broadcast landscape, including the growth of micro-payments
  • User generated recommendations
  • Evolving interactivity
  • New business models in a post linear broadcast ecosystem.

Is 2012 the year of Social TV'? In the TV space, while you could make a strong case for connected TVs and OTT content services, perhaps the most important new trend this year will be the evolution of social TV.

For many of its 800 million users worldwide, Facebook now is the internet. It is already a major channel for distributing and consuming content, although the full potential of that is a long way from being realised. What we don’t know yet is just how the appeal of social media will be harnessed by current providers of TV content.

Look at the ultra-competitive UK premium video market: Both the newcomer Netflix and the market-leading BSkyB recognise the potential of social media, but for very different ends. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings sees a future where TV is primarily consumed on-demand, delivered via IP, and where social media – specifically Facebook, with whom they have partnered at launch - will have a role in enabling discovery and building communities around non-linear content.

Sky has seen the potential of social TV too, but from a diametrically different perspective: Social TV’s power, for Sky, is in the ability of social apps like Zeebox (in which the broadcaster now has a 10% stake) to enhance and reinforce a live TV service. Zeebox, by allowing viewers to instantly access, share and contribute to a stream of related content, embodies and advances an existing social trend for a parallel and complementary “second screen” experience on a connected device, alongside the TV.

Social will have a key role in helping us discover new content, especially as the amount of content available continues to grow. But if existing broadcasters can harness social media to enhance the immediacy and value of their linear schedule, the threat from the on-demand universe Hastings predicts will be largely negated in the near term.

After all, the vast majority of current TV catch-up requests come within 24 hours of transmission, suggesting that UK audiences are still very much wedded to the live schedule. Services built on the long tail of archive content, even when offering it for free (such as SeeSaw), have so far failed. And for now, without that expensively-acquired ‘short head’ of the latest programmes, it will be hard to build and retain a paying audience, social or not.

Nick Thomas, Principal Analyst with Informa Telecoms & Media, provides a special article on Social TV and how it will play a key role in 2012.

In his role at Informa, Nick has a key focus on TV and digital media worldwide, covering TV and the evolving media landscape as companies seek to monetise their content across multiple platforms and devices. He is a frequent speaker at international conferences, as well as a regular press commentator.

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