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FankyTV: “Social TV can play an important role in what LatAm viewers will watch”

Gustavo Villegas, acting CTO of FankyTV

Gustavo Villegas, acting CTO of FankyTV

Gustavo Villegas, acting CTO for FankyTV, a cloud PVR service for free-to-air TV available in the Argentinian capital of Buenos Aires, on the struggle to get TV Everywhere services off the ground in Latin America, and the potential for Social TV offerings to revolutionise how viewers choose what television they watch.

How are second-screen experiences changing the look of TV services in Latin America?

I think that LatAm is just starting to head in this direction. It is still struggling with the TV Everywhere concept, over-the-top (OTT) services and hybrid services – don’t forget that LatAm still has a huge amount of users on free-to-air content even though the expectation for pay-TV in coming years is steadily growing.

We are still seeing the move into TV Everywhere solutions as well as OTT services which will let LatAm consumers enjoy content on their Smart TVs and set-top boxes.

In consequence, the second screen is not still being exploited like it should be as a business, rather than just a marketing presence. I believe the second screen needs to be used for re-enforcing customer loyalty and maintaining the revenue stream, and not just as an information screen or a fancy remote control or “I like” button.

The second screen needs to keep the eyeballs and actions on where the revenue comes from – and I’m sure it will help to fight piracy, an enormous issue in the LatAm market.

As always, content is king, but context is kingdom. The scenario here is set for two options.

Content owners are stepping up with second-screen apps related to their content, and are engaging their customer with a producer name and potentially their commercial supporters – it’s very common in LatAm for content to have ads inserted directly into the content itself.

The second possibility is that cable operators engage their customers through the second screen to their service, associated with the content, but on an operator platform, to retain loyalty and subscription base.

Neither of these two players (content owners and cable operators) have stepped up to the plate with their second screen actions yet, but they are starting to show interest in the model.

How do you think companion screens change the battle lines for  broadcasters and operators?

The battle is there to be won by whoever comes up first with something appealing to customers in order to engage eyeballs and their loyalty. The day will come when for the customer it will be transparent how the content they want to enjoy comes to their screen.

It could be over-the-top directly from the content owner, free-to-air, or through a pay-TV operator. It will be the add-on value service which will help decide where and how it will be watched. And second screen (properly used) is one of those add-ons.

Cord-cutting issue is not a real issue in LatAm yet – and I doubt it will ever be if OTT is the opponent. But the social-economic situation plus the growth of free-to-air digital TV will certainly be an issue to pay attention to for cable operators.

They need to engage users with their services, and the companion screen is a great opportunity for doing just that.

What profile do you think Social TV is taking in Latin America?

It’s very well known how social networks have penetrated in LatAm. Not only in the percentage of users but the daily usage of it. Many factors played a part here, but one of them is definitely cultural.

Even in the mix of different subcultures that LatAm has as a cluster, it’s part of the common foundation to be social and outgoing. For content distribution, so far, it hasn’t beyond content being exposed on social networks for fans to share or “like it”. But the potential is big in terms of what social TV might eventually become.

Social TV can play an important role in what LatAm viewers will watch – I think one of the biggest aspects of watching TV is deciding what to watch, and any help given by social TV in this decision will be more important than the recommendation engines we have nowadays.

This help could be related to just checking what your social network is watching, or watched and recommended, or shared with you directly; or there are even more sophisticated options.

When it comes to watching, Social TV services still have a lot to understand. How to get customer to interact with a second device in a way that doesn’t distract him or her from what they want to do. Simplicity of the apps and adding value to the experience will be the killer.

Finally, a very important part of this loop will be the recommendation and reviewing of content: a good social TV app will encourage users to close the loop by recommending and reviewing what they are watching (and most importantly, engaging and creating loyalty with the controller of this social app).

Can viewers be persuaded to check in to social TV services? How can this hurdle be overcome?

Yes, I believe they can and it won’t take a lot of work in LatAm as social networks have a great penetration… But it has be carefully thought out in terms of not being too intrusive and attention demanding.

I still believe TV watching is a lazy action … It needs to be a lean-back experience, perhaps with a second device in the hand.

Understanding what users do when watching TV (there are studies that classify content by potential social behaviour, saying for instance that drama offers low potential for Social TV apps in the watching stage but high potential when it comes to reviewing, while sports and reality TV shows are the opposite.

I don’t believe much in the second screen for commercial views/interaction or e-commerce (even though, it will always be present) … But I’m more into the second screen for keeping a customer hooked in with the content on the TV. I see LatAm viewers quickly engaging here.

My conclusions are that second screen still has a long way to go in LatAm, but the ground services are almost there for it to explode: smartphone and tablet proliferation is high, and smart TV penetration is getting there as well. Broadband services are slowly catching up, as are wireless networks.

Social activity through devices is also in great use in the region. All these provide a good scenario for Social TV to get traction through second-screen services.

Whoever best understands what the user wants and who then provides it with a good app will leap forward to the main goal, which is to keep eyeballs on the TV screen through their service.

Gustavo will be speaking at the TV Connect LatAm event taking place in São Paulo on 4th-5th December, 2012. For more information and to register, please visit http://latam.tvconnectevent.com

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