Could Social TV Really Become a Multi-Billion Dollar Business?

By Megan O'Neill Comment

As social TV apps continue springing up, social TV guides become more and more popular recommendation sources for television viewers, and TV commercials start utilizing the second screen to add interactivity to advertising, it’s becoming more and more clear that social TV really is the next big thing.  But how big will Social TV become?

Cory Bergman of Lost Remote thinks that social TV will be a multi-billion dollar business, and I can’t say I disagree with him.  In a post that went up earlier this week on, a blog all about social TV, Bergman writes, “There are three arenas where social TV is quickly gaining traction, and all three have the potential to become billion dollar businesses by themselves.”  These three arenas, according to Bergman, are interactive television, social TV guides and second-screen viewing experiences.

The Second Screen Future Of Television

Let’s take a look at the second screen first.  According to recent Nielsen statistics, television viewers are becoming more and more distracted.  Nielsen reports that a whopping 60.4% of television viewers are glued to their mobile phones looking at data during television viewing and 33.3% are glued to their laptops.  Bergman points out another Nielsen survey that found that, “iPad owners spend more time in front of TV with their tablet than any other activity.”  It has become natural for viewers to bring a second screen into their television viewing experience.  Bergman says, “No wonder why cable companies, broadcasters, programmers and sports leagues are scrambling to roll out ‘second screen’ apps that tie to TV.”

I couldn’t agree more with Bergman’s assertion.  Earlier this year I wrote a post on how the future of television is social, using Grey’s Anatomy as an example.  A February episode of Grey’s Anatomy revolved around Twitter and during the episode the Grey’s character Dr. Miranda Bailey live-Tweeted from @MirandaBaileyMD.  Being glued to their second screens, television viewers have a need for interactivity on their devices and additional content to help keep them engaged.  I think we will definitely be seeing more and more of this sort of thing.  The second screen will also create a new generation of advertising, as SecondScreen Networks, an advertising platform for the two screen future of television viewing, has shown.

The Potential Of Interactive TV

And we won’t just be able to interact with television content on our second screens—we’ll be able to interact with content directly on our television screens.  Bergman shares an example from Xbox—a demo of interactive TV ads from Microsoft.  Check out the video below.

At the moment, most social television apps like GetGlue, Miso, IntoNow and others simply let users check in to shows and interact a bit with their social network contacts.  Can you imagine if these social TV apps became integrated into the shows themselves so that you could check-in directly from your television screen?  Or better yet, if all television shows and advertisements began to include interactive content, like in the video above, so that viewers could actually interact with their favorite shows and perhaps even vote to provide input on what happens in future episodes?  How cool would that be?  If television became fully interactive viewership would likely see the biggest spike in history!  Interactive TV isn’t only exciting for viewers, but it’s great for advertisers as well.  Bergman points out the benefits of “knowing who interacted with a commercial and who took action on it.”  Television ad campaigns will be able to be monitored like never before.

Social TV Guides

Finally, Bergman points out that, “Just as DVRs increased television viewing—much to the surprise of many—social TV guides will empower viewers to make smarter choices and discover shows they never knew existed.”  Odds are that you’ve already discovered new content (be it a new television show, a movie, a book or something else) by looking through your Facebook news feed or Twitter stream.  Social TV guides compile television show recommendations from all of your friends to bring you the top shows that are trending amongst your own friends and the world.

One example of such a social television guide is SocialGuide.  SocialGuide CEO Sean Casey told me a little bit about how the service works.  “We capture the relevant social TV discussions that are happening naturally across Twitter and Facebook as TV airs.  TV fans can see what everyone, including their friends and the stars are saying as they watch their favorite programs.”  In the not-so-distant future, when people want to see what’s on television they won’t turn to the TV Guide channel.  Rather, they will turn to social TV guides to find out what their friends recommend, what their friends are watching, and will decide what to watch based on that information.

Social networks and second screens such as laptops and tablets, have definitely changed the way that we watch television and the television industry will definitely have to evolve to keep viewers engaged.  Interactivity, social guides and second screen applications and content are definitely going to be the tools that the TV industry turns to in order to keep up with the times and modernize.  I can’t wait to see what the future of television looks like!

Click here to read Cory Bergman’s wonderful article on Lost Remote and share your thoughts with us in the comments below.  Do you think these three arenas have the potential to become multi-billion dollar businesses?

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Megan O’Neill is the resident web video enthusiast here at Social Times.  Megan covers everything from the latest viral videos to online video news and tips, and has a passion for bizarre, original and revolutionary content and ideas.