Archive for the ‘Over the top’ Category

Social TV – What works and what doesn’t work!

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

Every time we stumble upon a new concept, we extrapolate its use cases across everything we can imagine only to realize that it doesn’t work in every instance! While some other times, we bring those use cases to market much sooner than the market is ready for them. Whether it is the most advanced hard disk drive – Kitty Hawk- from HP in early 1990s, or video streaming in the mid 1990s or online adv supported ventures in late 1990s, we have left a trail of such untimely ventures in the past.


Welcome to Social TV!Social TV is in its infancy and its good to understand the rules of Social TV based on current market conditions, limitations and end user’s expectations. These rules might not be relevant once the market matures with a different ecosystem than the early days of Social TV.

I define Social TV is an interactive television viewing experience with one or more individuals who are not co-located.

These groups of viewers can not only interact with each other via Television but also with any other devices. In case of certain genre shows such as reality TV or live competition, active social TV viewers can easily influence others in their voting/sentiment.

TV watching has been a fairly lonely experience until now. With connected TVs hitting over 40 million sales by the end of 2011, it doesn’t have to be a only experience. That was also one of the reasons why more youth are spending majority of their time Online rather than watching TV – despite good quality and compelling content.

Cover of
When you are in the theater

Social TV is akin to going to movies with a bunch of your friends without Shhing …..and turning off your cell phones while watching.

At least a “pinch hit” substitute for going to movies.

That said, these are the basic rules of Social TV.

  • Social TV is not for everyone – Social TV is a very interactive and passive experience unlike traditional TV viewing. Most of us are accustomed to this passive experience and might not take to Social TV experience as some of the younger generations might. So, there will be some significant parity between how each generation approaches Social TV. Industry should be mindful of such generational parities in building their Social TV platforms.




  • Social TV is not for every type of content/show/movie – Just the way not all types of content evokes similar/same reaction and engagement, Social TV is not for every time of content. Social TV is ideal for content that is inherently debatable, passionate with high emotions and opinionated.


  • Social TV is most compelling when it gives a strong enough reason for the audience to change their viewing patterns and behavior! – Social TV is not just about chatting and interacting with other viewers. Social TV should be able to change the user behavior – at its fundamental level. For example- People who are fans of a show who watch the show in “time shift mode” should find compelling reasons to watch the show “live” along with thousands and millions of other fans. That would dictate the success of Social TV.


  • Social TV with well-thought through privacy options is very critical. Privacy will be one of the cornerstones of Social TV. Your entertainment viewing options would have profound impact on who wants to be your friend and how close they want to maintain their friends with you. Social TV adds another source of information – about you – to your friends. Your reputation, persona, personality, priorities, values and principles get re-evaluated in the eyes of the world.  So, privacy becomes that much more important.


  • Social TV should be non intrusive – should not spoil the experience of watching the show or movie. Done right, Social TV should not negatively impact the viewing experience. If anything, it should enhance it.  


  • Social TV gets interesting when there are two or more sides/teams/parties – aka – Sports is the most apt genre for Social TV. Yes – Social TV thrives when there are sides, teams, emotions and passions. Sports content is most suitable for Social TV interactions.


  • Social TV is not just socializing while watching TV ….its also bringing TV to social networks and online communities. Social TV brings conversations from online/web to your living room. Your Online communities enter your living room.


  • Conversation is the engine between social TV – content is just a topic at hand! That’s correct – Social TV enables the conversations, heated and passionate debates in real time instead of waiting until the Water Cooler moment the next day morning.
poor water cooler design
Image by dennis -Nothing to talk at Water Coolers – via Flickr




  • Social TV thrives on the principle that we often look to others when we make media consumption decisions. We are less hardwired about these decisions than life changing/serious decisions




  • We are heavily influenced by the people in our physical space than remote. So, your social interactions vary based on who and how many are around you while watching TV. You might interact lot more with your remote buddies when you are watching TV alone versus with someone in the room. As George Custanza from Seinfeld would say, the “World’s Could Collide” that might lead to interesting scenarios – based on type of conversations and your company in the living room.  



  • People care deeply about how they look to others! Social TV is no different – if users don’t have appropriate tools to control how they are perceived by others, Social TV will die. Humans self-censor and we cannot live without it ….


  • Social TV is most suited for Sporting Events, Live Events and Reality Television – Based on above rules and scenarios, I feel Social TV is most suited for Sporting, Live and Reality TV Content – in that order.


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