Recent weeks have seen big advances in social metrics for TV programming, with Twitter and Facebook –the enduring kings of the social jungle – both unveiling their long-awaited metrics to rate audience engagement. It seemed to IP&TV News that this was sure to have big implications for the development of social TV, so we approached Nick Thomas, chief analyst at Informa, for his views.
“Numerous pieces of industry research in the past couple of years have argued that second-screen activity – that is to say, TV viewers interacting via a portable connected device with the content they are viewing on a TV – is now a mainstream activity in many markets. Yet monetizing that activity is proving elusive,” says Thomas.
He adds that the fact that TV viewers are not totally engaged with the primary TV screen does not seem to have deterred advertisers (or at least their agencies) “who continue to invest massive sums on TV advertising.”
In 2012, he points out, global spend on TV advertising was more than US$160 billion, and despite the new distractions in the living room, this is forecast to exceed US$200 billion in the next five years. “By contrast, despite having hundreds of millions of active users, neither Facebook nor Twitter, the two platforms which (among other things) dominate second-screen interaction, generate a fraction of this.”
It’s little surprise, then, that Facebook and Twitter, despite their social omnipresence, see fit to try to “hitch their wagon to the TV juggernaut.” Even a small share of that TV revenue, Thomas points out, would represent a significant step-up for the social media giants post-IPO.
What, though, of their long-term prospects?
“We are a long way from realising the potential of that second-screen interaction as an advertising property, but through a number of acquisitions and strategic developments both companies are looking to integrate themselves into the TV advertising stack. Not all the initiatives they have announced will succeed, and there are some major challenges in converting user time into advertising dollars, but we believe the Internet players are well placed to succeed (to a degree) in the long term.”
TV may still have the money, after all, but the social networks have an altogether more intimate relationship to the consumer that cannot fail to appeal to more traditional media as it seeks to better understand viewers and engage with them.
“Consumers are increasingly using tablets and smartphones as devices for interacting with and controlling their own personal media experiences, and that is a trend that shows no signs of reversing. Within that universe, Facebook and, to a lesser extent Twitter, have a traction with connected consumers that traditional TV broadcasters will never achieve. But monetizing that will remain a problem until and unless new audience measurement metrics are implemented and agreed. TV measurement is flawed, but it is understood and accepted a s a currency by advertisers and agencies. Facebook ‘likes’ count for nothing in that context. The industry needs new metrics, that better capture the fragmented, complex, interactive ways consumers increasingly access content, and better understand who is watching what, when and on what device.”
Are these new metrics, then, exactly what everybody’s been waiting for?
“We are some way from the holy grail of personalized advertising streams that target individual viewers with relevant and engaging messages across different devices and platforms, but thanks to the likes of Facebook and Twitter (and Google) we are a lot closer to it than before. And while TV’s ability to deliver a big audience will ensure it remains the most lucrative advertising platform, the ability of Internet platforms to deliver an engaging personalized experience will ensure that – eventually – ad dollars will start to migrate to these new platforms. After all, if advertisers aren’t in the same place as their audience, then they are getting it wrong.”