Research conducted in the UK by Digital Marketing Agency Digital Clarity earlier this year revealed that 72% of the under 25s surveyed use social media apps such as Facebook and Twitter on their smartphones to comment on shows while they are watching them (writes Yann Courqueux, Chief Marketing Officer at French firm Netgem).
These statistics call the model of the passive “viewer” into question; instead it would be better to regard significant numbers of TV audiences as “users” who want to take advantage of their companion devices to engage with their favourite shows through the use of social TV applications.
Users are already adept at shaping the online experience to suit their own needs and preferences, and by deploying hybrid multiscreen services, there is no reason why this cannot translate to a television context. Service providers should therefore be thinking creatively about how they can take advantage of social TV to better immerse customers with their service packages.
Smartphones have reached just over fifty percent penetration of the UK mobile market and tablets are also gaining market traction, particularly with high-value early adoptors. Those operators that fail to provide their subscribers with the option of accessing and interacting with TV services on these popular devices risk losing them.
Conversely, bringing companion devices and social TV applications into the managed infrastructure is a great way to make the TV experience more personal and immersive and thus encourage subscribers to remain loyal.
Initiatives such as DLNA offer opportunities for a certain level of connectivity, however, there is no single standard that works across all consumer electronics products. The array of incompatible operating systems on the market makes the development and deployment of social TV apps both time-consuming and expensive.
Multiple versions need to be built for each OS and then transcoded for delivery to different devices from the headend. Therefore, the successful integration of social TV into a subscription package means deploying a more comprehensive networking technology to ensure the process is seamless and coherent across devices.
Netgem believes the most cost-effective answer lies in using a smart hybrid set-top box as a home multimedia server to redistribute broadcast content, as well as broadband delivered content and apps, to every companion devices around the home.
Because this approach regards connected screens as clients, all content is delivered as HTML5 pages, negating the need to build numerous apps for different operating systems.
In addition, a multiscreen strategy based around middleware means the end-user receives a fluid and consistent experience within a single operator-branded UI for consistent branding and navigation.
Television has always been a social activity, whether this is families gathering around the big screen in the living room to watch a film or individuals talking about the latest episode of X-Factor at work.
Connected TVs and companion devices present new ways for people to engage with TV content. However, operators still need to address the pain point around the lack of interoperability.
Pay-TV providers can therefore add value and build stickiness into their subscription packages by integrating social TV in a user-friendly way across all of their users’ screens.