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.
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 your 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.
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