Hybrid TV & OTT

Facebook key to social TV future, says Informa survey

Social networking sites are playing a pivotal role in marketing digital TV services and could be more important that network operators, according to an industry survey from Informa Telecoms & Media.

Over 20% of respondents to Informa’s “Future of TV” survey said that social networking sites like Facebook are best-placed to build an audience for paid digital content, compared with only 16% for network operators. Despite Facebook’s minimal investment in TV compared with Apple or Netflix to date, the growth of tablets and the new trend for simultaneous multiscreen consumption means that Facebook is in an ideal position to take advantage of the social TV phenomenon, according to Informa.

“Informa Telecoms & Media estimates that there will be over 100 million tablets sold worldwide this year alone. This explosion has fuelled the growth in social TV with many users already using Facebook, Twitter and other tools to communicate via their handheld devices about the content they are simultaneously viewing on the TV,” said Nick Thomas, principal analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media. This creates an opportunity for broadcasters and advertisers, said Thomas. “By harnessing the appeal of social media and connected ‘companion’ devices, they can create experiences which enhance – rather than distract from – the core TV viewing experience, and even improve the advertising experience.”

Facebook’s role in the future of television – as both partner and disrupter – is developing in several ways, Thomas argues in a new white paper from Informa Telecoms & Media, The Future of TV: Strategies for Becoming Connected, Social and in the Cloud.

“For broadcasters facing the threat of an on-demand, over-the-top future, Facebook can help enhance the value of live, scheduled programming,” he said. “For over-the-top providers such as Netflix, Facebook can help viewers to both discover and build communities around on-demand content. Perhaps most intriguingly, Facebook may emerge as a major distribution channel in its own right. Much of its extraordinary growth has been fueled by rich media content, primarily social games such as Cityville. If gaming on Facebook has started to plateau, then perhaps the next, even bigger, phase of Facebook’s development could be as a platform for consuming and sharing TV content.”

Broadcasters with good content are also well-placed to benefit from social activity, although not all genres will benefit equally. According to the survey, sport, news and above all entertainment are the best fit for complementary second-screen experiences. Movies did not register in the survey. “Some content still warrants our undivided attention, it seems. It’s not just about having great programming, though – even scarce premium content needs a frictionless ‘companion experience’ if the value of a pay TV subscription is to be enhanced,” said Thomas. “The success of social TV depends on the ability of providers to add value to the core content through a companion experience. All stakeholders stand to benefit from a deeper dialog with their consumers, provided it is two-way: Don’t just talk at consumers, but don’t just eavesdrop on their conversations, either.”