The idea of watching TV and having a conversation with people about it is nothing new. The water cooler moment came off the back of people talking about TV and current events – what’s happened now though is that technology has enabled that conversation to happen in real time. You no longer have to wait for that moment at the water cooler the next day to discuss the latest happenings in your favourite show. There's an app (or an online platform at least) for that!
TV is still a huge medium, as Ernesto Schmitt pointed out at a recent talk I attended about 2 Screen and Social TV. Schmitt is the co-founder of Zeebox – a Two Screen application that got a lot of attention at launch and even more when Sky bought a stake in the company. He pointed out that whilst technology has changed the way we watch TV, it is still being watched by a lot of people. Interestingly, 1/3 of all browsing in the UK is done while watching TV and 250,000 and the 2 screen phenomenon is taking off if the 250,000 users that Zeebox aquired in it's first few weeks on the market are anything to go by. They're now averaging 15,000 new sign ups per hour since their TV advertising kicked in - it's pretty clear to see that TV is not going anywhere.
It’s certainly big business as all the key players are taking note of how important the idea of 2 screening is - especially when you think about integrating selling on the platforms where people are actively engaged in a show. But it’s not just UK based Zeebox who are making waves in the space. In March I attended several talks around social TV at SXSW 2012 with panelists from MTV, Showtime and Bravo all talking about the partnerships they have formed with the likes of Get Glue, GroupMe and Shazam.
GetGlue is an application that allows users to share what they are viewing with others by checking in to the show they are watching. The activity is not limited to watching TV – users can also check in to movies, music they are listening to, books they are reading, and even what they are thinking about! Users are rewarded with stickers for checking in regularly to shows and have the opportunity to discuss the show in the conversation section of the app where the most interesting conversations are surfaced.
Kimber Myers, Director of Partnerships at Get Glue, talked at length at SXSW in March about how GetGlue were proud to partner with broadcasters to create officially branded stickers for users. The next stage for Get Glue will be to add content from upcoming episodes of shows and releases to the application to take the user engagement to the next level and encourage repeat usage.
GroupMe is a free mobile application that allows user to chat in groups with people they know. It’s available across iPhone, Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone and allows the user to talk one on one with people or create private groups for larger discussions. The app also allows for these conversations and groups to be embedded in third party applicaions or platforms.
According to co-founder Jared Hecht, the benefit of using GroupMe is that it allows users to discuss TV shows in groups of people they actually know. It's their belief that people are far more comfortable saying what they really want to say in a group of people who know them as opposed to just putting it out there for the world to see. GroupMe connects you with people you know and facilitates this conversation.
Shazam has been around for a while now, and was initially an application that alowed users to get information on a song by holding the application up to a speaker. The app takes a sample of the song and matches it to a database of tracks and presents the user with information on the song including the artist, song name, links to buy and more.
Shazam's offering has developed recenty to incorporate other entertainment mediums. EVP of Marketing at Shazam, David Jones, described at SXSW how they had partnered with ABC for the latest series of Grey’s Anatomy. Users were prompted to 'Shazam' the 30 second TV spot aired to promote the new series. They were then shown a longer 4 minute preview of the new series on their handsets. He also discussed how 26 adverts during the Superbowl were tagged for Shazam users, allowing them to access additional content or enter competitions when they 'Shazam'd' the advert during broadcast. Shazam have recently announced an exclusive deal with ITV to allow their 10 million users the ability to interact with ads via the app.
There are several other similar apps in the marketplace doing similar things – but what does it mean for the users and for brands?
For the user, the benefits seem pretty simple. These applications add an additional layer to what was once a very flat experience. Traditionally, watching TV was a very passive activity, but the second screen applications have introduced a dynamic layer to the viewing experience. At a very basic level, users are able to join a conversation with other fans or critics of a TV show or they can find out information on the cast, airtimes and episode guides. On some more advanced platforms, users are able to discover additional content, pledge their fandom through badges and liking on social networks. It's also possible for users to discover information on products featured in a show and link through to spaces where they can buy those products!
Sky's Got To Dance Space on Zeebox
For brands, the opportunities are pretty endless. Zeebox is a new to market application, but is already developing their platform to allow users to buy products from shows, use contextual promotion to advertise content from platforms like iTunes, and include direct links to buy. All from within a simple and user friendly interface.
This is clearly something broadcasters are keen to get involved in. All panelists at SXSW who were from TV networks were hugely on board with maximizing the opportunity that these apps present. All panelists were keen to point out that whilst they were keen to explore these opportunities with brands and advertisers, they fundamentally had to ensue that the user experience was never compromised. Mike Scogin, VP of Wireless & Mobile at MTV in the US, was keen to drive home the point that maintaining a great user experience would always trump a bad partnership that would potentially spoil the fun for users. He even went as far to say that there have been deals that he has walked away from because the brands have not understood the importance of augmenting and not disrupting what users are familiar with. Hecht agreed with this point, and went on to say that it can often be tricky to find the right balance between integrating a brand in to the experience and not ruining it for the user. This was seen as a positive thing though, as it challenges advertisers, brand managers, broadcasters, developers and everyone involved to devise more creative and interesting ways of promoting brands in these spaces.
Personally, as a huge TV addict and someone who already uses GetGlue, this phenomenon fascinates me. The way that applications have the power to change the way that we watch a TV show is incredible – and it’s actually happening. More interestingly for me is how the data collected by these apps will be used in the future. Currently, the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (BARB) compiles ratings for TV shows in the United Kingdom, but only works off the data in around 5,000 homes. Hardly a drop in the ocean when you consider the potential viewing audience of 10 million viewers out there. The data collected from an application like Zeebox has the potential to hold more relevant data and possibly inform on viewing figures, audience sentiment and more on a bigger scale. Is it only a matter of time before this data is used to inform costs of TV advertising and give a clearer idea of audience demographics?
The second screen is clearly here to stay whether we like it or not. What’s great is that the broadcast industry seem to be taking this seriously and not suffering the same fate that the music industry did when presented with music streaming. Just look at Apple’s monopoly on retailing all that content – it seems that the TV industry might be getting it right for now and embracing the technology.
Do you use any 2 Screen apps? Let us know your thoughts!