Social TV: More Than Tweets on Screen
That was the message from a diverse mix of executives on a Cable Show Keynote panel today. The group, which included Twitter, TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO), Showtime Networks Inc. , Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC), and super-agent Ari Emanuel of talent agency William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, agreed that social media is important to monetizing media, but it’s not as simple as just replicating the Web.
Social media is already making a positive impact on TV shows, as well as movies, according to both Emanuel and Evan Williams, founder and CEO of Twitter. Williams cited a field trial conducted by TV network Oxygen in which the use of social media to promote the premiere of The Bad Girls’ Club caused ratings to nearly double. “It reverberated throughout the networks, and people turned on the TV set,” Williams said.
But outside of driving consumers to the TV, the panelists discussed whether or not consumers want social media features directly on their TVs as well. The consensus was an emphatic "not really."
TiVo President and CEO Tom Rogers, who joked that he couldn’t attract any Twitter followers, said cable’s first priority should be the core of TV: customer choice and control. Rogers's measure of success for the industry is to ask whether the industry is driving the change, or is it just following new trends in the tech world and adding features and services that don't actually fit on the TV screen.
"Twitter on a TV screen? That's like email on a TV screen,” Rogers quipped. “Who cares?”
Even Williams agreed that slapping Twitter on the TV screen, which some companies like Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) were demoing at the show, isn’t the best experience. He would prefer to watch shows on his big-screen TV while Tweeting about them on his iPad. The killer app for him would be to have those devices talk to one another.
“The iPad paints a picture of what it could be where you have devices synched,” Williams said, adding that this will happen soon enough and is indeed something cable operators at the show were touting in their booths. (See Harmonic Expands TV Everywhere With Omneon.)
'TV shouldn’t be a definition any longer'
As in most conversations at this week’s show, Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL)’s iPad was central to the panel’s discussion on the future of TV. (See Cable MSOs Seeing the IP Video Light .) The new iconic device is sometimes a TV, sometimes a set-top box, sometimes a computer, maybe a DVR or a remote control, said Thomas Rutledge, chief operating officer at Cablevision. (See To Xfinity... & Beyond!) Regardless of its role, he said the important thing is it’s always connected in the home.
“Everything we have as a service can be replicated on an iPad and can make your life really interesting,” he said. “You can watch a TV show and control that show and be involved in social media that’s connected to the show in real time. All that can be done with the aid of an iPad, connected to the services we already sell. I look at it as a leap-frog enabling device that makes the services we have work better.”
Rutledge claimed that the fundamental notion that the Internet is a separate space from TV is dead wrong. Anything unencrypted ends up on both screens, which can and should interact, he said. Moving between the PC and TV is simple in that it can be done through the network, Rutledge explained, but he noted that Cablevision doesn’t put its product on the Internet because it likes the subscription fees it gets and the ads it sells.
It will go the opposite way, however. The company is prepping a “PC-to-TV Media Relay product” that will let its subscribers with a digital video and high-speed Internet subscription watch Web video on the TV. (See Cablevision Won’t Disable Fast-Forward on RS-DVR and Cablevision Preps Network DVR, WiFi Phone.)
The bottom line for the panelists was that TV as we know it today is changing, as is where consumers watch it and how they interact with it and, significantly, how operators monetize it.
"TV shouldn’t be a definition any longer," Emanuel said. "Where it appears and how it’s monetized, we have to redefine."
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile