Jerry Kramskoy, Senior Technologist for BBC Research and Development, on the longevity of social TV, the possibilities that companion devices represent, and the prospect of Web content and applications ultimately becoming TV-aware.
Jerry will be speaking at the TV Connect 2013 event taking place in London on 19-21 March 2013. For more information and to register, please visit www.tvconnectevent.com
Is social TV a fad, or is it here to stay?
People love social interaction, telling each other what they’re up to, jointly discussing items of shared interest, sharing feelings, making suggestions and recommendations, competing, commenting how good or bad something is, spreading news, and so on.
That’s for everyday life. Social interaction is a basic need for people, and the technologies and products will evolve in response to how people want to express themselves in this regard.
Social interaction is here to stay, and I believe so is social TV… The critical factor is getting the user experience right for this interaction.
Minimise the additional effort beyond imparting the social content (no one wants to navigate through a complex interface to achieve the desired interaction). Maximise the value of the social content.
Make it easy for a companion device to bring video content to the TV screen (e.g. launching a VoD player at a certain time position into a programme) and get information about the state of the TV (what’s on, and how far has it progressed).
Make it easy to discuss content that deal with changes in the life-cycle of content (from broadcast to catch-up to retired).
Can all segments of viewers be persuaded to take part, and how?
This comes back to what people want. How their needs are addressed by products and technologies shaped by society, demographic and so on.
It used to be the case that youngsters were typically early adopters of new technologies and products, while the elderly wouldn’t engage, and the rest would slowly pick up.
But now, two major events have occurred to help break down these barriers: digital switch over and user-friendly smartphones and tablets.
If all segments are to participate, then there has to be clearly perceived value for any social TV services (even if free) and the user experience must be one that encourages engagement.
For the elderly in particular, it makes a great deal of sense to deliver enhanced EPG / remote control through such companion devices for accessibility, and hence surfacing social TV services is a logical progression.
In all segments, there needs to be content of relevance, and easy discovery and filtering of it.
What has surprised you about the rise of social TV?
The innovation in discovery of what’s currently being viewed, such as audio watermarking and fingerprinting, video fingerprinting, proprietary back channels from the TV to service provider, infra-red protocols and so on.
What do you think holds the most potential for the BBC in this area?
Fundamentally the BBC is all about creating and offering great content to inform, educate and entertain. Some aspects of social TV could enhance this, such as recommendations, voting, quizzes and so on.
But the BBC would not create a social platform… It makes far more sense to integrate the relevant areas of social TV with Twitter, Facebook etc.
For example to provide BBC Web content or companion applications that can acquire information about what’s currently on that can be shared out to a social platform, and pulled back in from that platform to easily bring that content to the recipient’s TV (or companion device).
However, bespoke applications can be costly to create, including licensing costs for synchronisation technology, so standardisation in these areas will help.
Ultimately, one can visualise a world where the TV, the Web, or the companion screen application can be the launching point into the overall TV experience, and where the Web content is TV-aware (of what’s happening on a TV in the home).