What you may have missed at the Social TV Summit

By Natan Edelsburg 

Top execs from the social TV industry gathered at NYC’s Capitale (a beautiful venue resembling Gringotts Bank) on Wednesday to discuss the state and future of the social TV industry. The summit kicked off with co-host Jack Myers predicting that the social TV business would grow to $30 billion by 2020. Facebook and Twitter both keynoted the event: Facebook said it was “pretty confident” it was driving incremental ratings, and Twitter said the connection between social and ratings is growing clearer.

Here are few more takeaways from the summit:

The billion dollar question – how can dollars move to social?

One of the most interesting and productive conversations of the day was the the broadcast, cable, satellite roundtable. The execs from Univision, FOX, AT&T, CBS, Turner, TVGuide.com and NBC were asked for those who were connected to monetization “to talk about the challenges you’re facing in finding ways to monetize and what kind of response your getting in the ad community.” Here are two extremely revealing answers from Univision and CBS.

Kevin Conroy, President, Interactive Media Group, Univision: “Were still at a point where it’s a mistake to monetize impressions on a discreet basis, those impressions on a standalone basis are not value enough to drive the right economics. A great bridge to get where we all want to go is by recognizing that those impressions when packaged into an overall experience have a lot of value. The media business is about reach and frequency, and we have opportunities through this lens…. I think we’ll lift the value of these impressions, lift the CPM. Let’s face it, it’s not free for us, it’s not free for everyone. We need to begin to see that kind of ROI to invest further.”

Marc DeBevoise, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Entertainment, CBS Interactive: “I’ll agree that packaging it on air or deeper online will result in the most value. Sprint sponsored Survivor in a big way and sponsored the Survivor game in a big way, and obviously that’s a match that makes a ton of sense… The idea that you can’t go out and sell social separately is false. Tweet Week was packaged as part of premieres, so it was a premier event and those were online only. For Social Sweeps Week we got the talent to agree way too late and we had only two weeks to sell it…. We don’t disclose the CPM…. You know what your traffic patterns are online and through video, when it comes to a social initiative you have to be conservative because you can’t bank on viral explosion, you have to bank on the promotion…. As we get deeper into it, it’s going to get better.”

The battle over understanding data:

We constantly talk about how important data is for the present and future of social TV. Take a look at all the SnappyTV-ed clips from the Social TV Research panel featuring Bluefin Labs, Social Guide (who just updated their iPhone app), Trendrr and Orange-France Telecom. The main question: how can data be used to make better programming decisions? Each company has a different take, a different algorithm and a different approach. One interesting point that was made, was how Nielsen ratings need to be integrated more with social TV buzz. “There are some barriers that as an industry we have to break through,” explained Bluefin Lab’s Deb Roy. “That is, how do we normalize this data, get benchmarks, and bring this new data — which is incredibly powerful, because we’re getting a window into audience mindsets that have never been there before — but bring it into registration with all the rest?”

Shelly Palmer, who hosts “Live Digital with Shelly Palmer,” summed it up nicely: “[Engagement] has yet to be quantified on a standardized basis. And on the day that that metric becomes a real, usable number, then everything we talked about here today is something we can go sell. And until that happens, we’re all going to have that friction that just exists when you just don’t have currency to do business with.”

Unfortunately NM Incite and Networked Insights did not participate in the panel, two other leading companies in the social TV data space.

The “Best New Idea” winner is TVplus

At the summit over the summer, SnappyTV took home the now coveted award for best new idea. This time the platform that powered the X Factor app, TVplus was the audience pick (and here’s our review of the app). Co-Founder Randy Shiozaki gave a short presentation about TVplus’ ability to synchronize programming on the second screen. TVplus also has a consumer-facing iPad app, which in the long-term they’re banking on being their main business. They interestingly have a guide (here’s a link to the one on their site) to help you know when the audio-syncing with linear will actually work as they further develop its capabilities.

What worked and what didn’t work?

Mike Proulx Senior VP, Digital Strategy, Hill Holiday who’s authoring a book on social TV (here are outtakes from his interviews for his book they recently posted), led an interesting panel discussing case studies of what worked and what didn’t work. (Lost Remote will also be quoted in the book!) One great example he gave is Verizon Wireless’ social integration in the Emmys: you may remember when host Jane Lynch walked up to the Verizon Wireless guy, snapped a photo and said, “consider it Tweeted.” Explains Proulx, “For those following on the Twitter backchannel, they could see a promoted tweet that Verizon Wireless paid for, but it brilliantly came from Jane Lynch’s Twitter account. And when you clicked on the Twitpic, of course, it was the picture made to look like the one she took. This was just a great little microcosm example of transcending multiple screens using social media.”

Derek Van Nostran, SVP, Brand Strategy for The Weather Channel gave a great example of how they magnified engagement with tweets. Check out more examples from the panel here.

The technology driving social TV:

GetGlue, Shazam, Yahoo, Miso, SnappyTV and Umami ended the day with a talk on tech. We’ve reported extensively on all nearly all of these, but among the many interesting points, Shazam’s David Jones offered a surprising statistic about how his company has worked with a “Shazamable” network TV show over eight episodes: “When you compare Shazaming the shows with tweeting about the show or episode with the name in a tweet, or liking the show or episode on Facebook, there were more Shazams on these television episodes than tweets and likes combined,” he said.

One of the most impressive demonstrations: SnappyTV’s Mike Folgs live-edited a clip of his own in-progress presentation from the live stream and shared it on Twitter. “I believe this is the first time that anyone has ever tweeted himself, tweeting himself,” he said. The screen at the event, which was showing Folgs’ screen, went into an infinite feedback loop. Appropriately, here’s the SnappyTV clip of it here and here.

What was missing and what’s next?

One dedicated panel I would’ve liked to see was on social gaming and social TV. A&E, History, USA, Showtime, CBS and more using gaming as part of the their social TV mix, specifically to give fans something to do while in between linear viewings. Additionally, Christy Tanner was asked a question about women and social TV and tweeted this. Chloe Sladden from Twitter also made a similar comment about the lack of women speakers at the conference, which I’m sure the summit will improve on next time. I would’ve also liked to see a panel where uber-fans of shows face-off with the high-level network execs and more talk about the possibilities of social when Connected TVs are in more households.

The stakes are high, the amount of revenue to be had is large and the difference of opinions on what the future will tell is deep. The exciting part is that industry execs from the top to the bottom are thinking about social TV, excited about the possibilities, investing in new technologies and at the early stages of some groundbreaking innovations.