5 Predictions for social TV in 2014

Social TV is going to be more than a buzzword in 2014, it will become the essential element many TV viewers need to complete their viewing experience.

Only now do broadcasters have access to the tools that will reach many of the expectations their audiences have built up since Twitter and Facebook began encouraging levels of engagement the networks themselves could not deliver.

Working on the cusp of this is what makes me want to get up in the morning.

Here are 5 ways I see the landscape changing in the next 12 months:

1. Deeper program integration.
As broadcasters become more familiar with social media trends and terminology, expect comments and other content appearing in TV shows to be more useful, seamlessly integrated, less visually intrusive, and, with improved moderation, more relevant (ie. intelligent). The era of seeing Sally from Blacktown’s tweet on screen is nearing an end.

tweets qanda

2. Platform tools
The broadcasters won’t be the only ones evolving. Twitter is sharpening it’s live TV tools –  from targeted ads to trends to ratings. Twitter and Facebook are racing each other to the prize of realtime TV co-dependence. Twitter has an early lead and is eager to have people link the hashtag with the little blue bird. But if Facebook figures out filtering at scale, bringing you useful comments from people you know of or people nearby – all grouped around a hashtag – then the number of people who have never used twitter but have a Facebook account will suddenly understand what TV conversations are all about.

3. New apps and mergers
TV apps that aggregate social content and aim to complement your viewing continue to emerge. Apps can already control getglueyour TV, set your PVR to record and rewind. Zeebox continues to add features and may be snapped up in the next year having made good ground, especially in the UK. In January, Dijit acquired Miso, then  i.TV purchased GetGlue in November, bringing greater legitimacy to the entire category of apps. Cable TV and free-to-air operators will keep developing their own apps – hopefully joining forces where possible so viewers don’t require a new app for every on-demand service. Streaming apps e.g. Netflix, could be the big ball-buster for networks, especially if deals are drawn up directly with cable networks and production companies.

4. Increasingly social newsrooms
As more news desks employ social media editors, engagement experts and audience leads, the last remaining barriers to viewers having a role to play in realtime news; access and verification; will disappear. Some journalists still see this as a threat. The best journos have already embraced it. Expect to see particular users given elevated status to report news. As the lines between on-air and online have already blurred for consumers (think streaming news, tweeted video snippets, shared gifs of realtime sporting moments) media conglomerates will continue snapping up video content tools and agencies to complement their editorial teams. Likewise, web teams will be further blended with news producers so stories and contributed content can be shared ay direction efficiently.
The future - as per Fox News.

5. Big data to smash it all out of the park
In 2013, Twitter bought Bluefin Labs and Apple purchased Topsy. Each acquisition is aimed at providing realtime insights to the owner and surfacing the most relevant content to the consumer. Either way, TV viewers win – there’ll be less guesswork by producers and more accurate coverage, commentary and graphics. Transparency will also rise as the real sentiment of viewers can now be shown in reality shows and during political debates.

TV and sports are widely regarded as the two most popular topics on social media, and with that in mind, Facebook has just got its hands on SportStream. The numbers around much of the success of social networks have themselves been furry so it’s encouraging to see everyone looking to sure up their own turf with hard data. Data will convince the bean counters of a business case for integrating social, while also bringing more useful graphics to the screen for viewers and realtime stats for those using devices. Because no one loves stats during live events more than a true sports fan. Now imagine if these were personalised, changeable and updating live.

For social TV, the future is bright – because the science is only now becoming clear.


This article first appeared on TV Revolution

Chaos, magic and flying phones in Breakfast TV Land

I have just concluded five years inside the bewildering world of breakfast television, a place where secrets are held tight, where inhibitions are lost, reputations are built and an astounding amount of work is drawn from a group of extremely talented people.

I’m the first person to say that this blog is just a way to process my experiences. It’s not seeking to blow the lid on some outrageous work culture. (That’s not to say that the Sunrise lifestyle isn’t outrageous. It is mildly insane. And if it weren’t so ridiculous in both its personalities and pace, it’s unlikely I would’ve stayed for five years – twice as long as I’ve spent in any previous job).

Inside the Sunrise bubble, you’ve got to like the frantic pace. In fact, you’d better fall for it and wish your weekends had the same wham-bam. Otherwise, your nay-saying and drawn looks will soon stand out like a typo in a headline.

Each day at Sunrise starts as soon as the show finishes. For me, the production meetings (a half hour conference call) were the most hilarious part of my day. Whether I was running for the train or doing ablutions in my pyjamas, I never missed one.  The jokes come fast, the wit is often as crude as it is sharp, and somewhere in between people are pitching ideas and a show takes shape. Staff in the office already could attend the meeting in person, and they’d often leave the room crying with laughter. How many jobs can start you off on that note each day?

For most staff, the hours are long. For me, the hours were also flexible, allowing me to work around the clock and my family which worked well to help the show lead in the social media sphere.

Working at Sunrise bled into my regular life in other ways. At least once a week I had the question ‘What are Kochie and Mel really like?’ It came up on Facebook, at cafes, at dinner parties, even at the doctor’s. Unfortunately for this blog, the truth is that they are just like on TV. Mel is really into family. Kochie is really into finance. Both are professional and efficient. Last time I saw them, Mel asked about my kids and Kochie said, “Do you realise ten per cent of household electricity bills are due to appliances left on standby? Ten per cent!”

The personalities of those behind the camera are a little more extreme. Imagine the most extroverted person you went to school with, and combine them with the most creative and driven manager you have had in your career and you are approaching the kind of person it takes to deliver three hours of live television every day.

(As a quick sidenote.. few people seem to understand the importance of this — Sunrise represents about a quarter of the television programming for each day (that is, inside waking hours). So it’s worth a huge amount, it’s taken very seriously at some upper executive level and it takes an enormous amount of effort to get right.)

I believe that part of the reason the show works is because people there care greatly about the minutiae. You may have noticed the length of segments but have you considered the size or speed of the ticker scrolling along the screen, the length of banter between segments, or the order of the cities cycling through the weather on the screen. (I once received about ten complaints via Twitter when these cities got out of order, proving some viewers do notice.)

Producers are trained to think about even the smallest things. What’s in the background behind your talent? What headline works best if someone has the TV turned down? Someone is thinking about the number of seconds any sponsor’s logo appears. Other conversations revolve around the suitability of guests to hosts, couches vs. desks, whether we throw to the break with a tease, banter, a chat or just go straight to the break?

Producers consider such points for every show. Then you watch it play out… and… it’s seamless. If it’s not, producers all definitely hear about it – but only briefly. There’s no time to dwell.

If you’re not in TV land and you don’t care for any of the breakfast TV presenters, I still suggest you watch it one day and ponder how, less than 24 hours earlier, the program may have had no rundown, no script, and, perhaps not even a single interviewee lined up. It should not be possible.

recent video I made on my iPhone made light of the difference between the new HBO drama The Newsroom and the production team of Sunrise. This video was obviously in-jest and the silent shots of the Sunrise team at work belie the times it can turn furious. The banter is less witty and it takes place more often on email, which, I suppose, wouldn’t make a great show about a show.

As in most TV units, some days are quiet while some are frantic – and it’s these ones which can turn rather silly. People swear a lot and make obscene jokes but no one gets offended. Again ,there’s simply no time.

The way to cope with such pressure in breakfast TV is to let loose – have a good yell, burn off stress being a gym junkie or binge on junk food (this was usually me), break into a public song or dance (usually the management), or dress up as a cow… that sort of thing.

There was one time former EP Adam Boland threw his Blackberry across his small office during a production meeting. It wasn’t intentional, as I recall, but the mistake became suddenly more serious when the phone flew out a small gap between the glass wall and ceiling then descended down a level, landing among the 7 News desks. (“Damn! Missed!”, someone said.)

The response of Sunrise producers, typically, was bellows of laughter.

It is as if a mild eccentricity filters down to the troops, perhaps from the VERY top. Sure, you’re spending heaps of money chasing great TV and super ratings, but shouldn’t working inside the magic of TV be enjoyable?

Even when it’s stressful, it’s still thrilling.

(L-R) Mel, Justin, David.

When police canceled Justin Bieber’s concert in 2010 due to safety concerns, Adam called me at 4 in the morning.

He was completely calm as he told me to tweet the thousands of crazed and crying teenage girls that there would be no concert.

There was no suggestion of a back-up plan. This was the wildest moment in my time at Sunrise. Twitter, teenage obsession and a frustrated hormonal climax came together in a genuine social media storm, and all before the actual sunrise.

The emotion soon turned very real as literally thousands of girls marched aggressively toward the Sunrise studio where the glass is thick … but only so thick.

Adam then pulled a Bieber-sized rabbit out of his hat to salvage the PR disaster, somehow ushering the star safely into the studio where he performed behind the glass.

I will never know if it was always plan B but at 4am, then again at 6am, there was still no mention of a plan B, not even to staff. Yet, by 9am, the months of planning, enormous build up and costs had completely paid off.

We felt like heroes.

And it wasn’t just that 5,000 screaming girls were going home happy. Professionalism, with just enough secrecy, had carried the show, the day.

This must be how Sunrise stays on top year after year. I’m not entirely sure. I guess I wasn’t there long enough to find out all the secrets.

@RupertMurdoch already more popular than The @Daily

Rupert Murdoch has tried a few things that did not work.

MySpace, News Of The World, taking his own Twitter profile picture.

However, with just one week of awkward tweets under his belt, @RupertMurdoch has already attracted more followers than his most recent online venture, the digital newspaper made for Ipad, the @Daily.

This shows that The Daily is yet to be fully accepted as a strong media force. The paywall restricts anyone but subscribers from reading most full stories. This is a terrible hindrance to the reach of any breaking news or potentially explosive investigative piece their team files.

This closed model cannot work in a world where the ease of sharing information is paramount, where the integration of social media into every nook and cranny of your daily life is becoming commonplace – e.g. I’ve just noticed my local $2 store has a Facebook page! – and where the next generation of readers’ first instinct is to tell someone about what they have just read or watched online.

As @RupertMurdoch enjoys the kudos of his follower numbers growing exponentially, (and, therefore, his influence) I hope he realises it is only occurring because of retweets, because of the free sharing permitted across other news websites that mention his tweets, and across other platforms like texting and within other social networks like Facebook and Tumblr.

Sadly, these are all elements of a strict paywall model that otherwise exciting forays such as The Daily seems committed to ignoring.

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