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Social TV fuels race for 'second screen' dominance: 13 disruptive companies

Social TV fuels race for 'second screen' dominance: 13 disruptive companies

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'Research demonstrates that over 75% of users who have access to mobile devices or a laptop while watching TV will spend more than half of the time looking at the second screen, not the TV.'

Not too long ago, consumers had one screen in front of them at a time, and it was either a PC, or a standard television set. Now, consumers are surrounded by a "swarm of devices" that are increasingly interacting and overlapping one another. Lately, tablets have been the device of choice serving as the second screen of choice, and the race is on to capture big pieces of this vast new real estate.

I want my social TV: 'The old mode — watching the plain vanilla standalone TV, and perhaps talking with others actually in the room — is dead.'

That's the gist of a new report by Stowe Boyd of Work Talk Research. He refers to the trend as "second screening," but it means a lot more than simply having another screen present while watching television. It opens up a new era of interaction -- the rise of "Social TV." This Internet-TV convergence now taking place has implications for a range of industries, from broadcasting to content delivery to advertising.

As Gerd Leonhard of The Futures Agency describes it in the foreword of the report:  "Social TV and second screen business models... will bring up all of the tough issues inherent in any kind of convergence: who is allowed to do this or that, when and where, how will new revenue streams be invented and realized (as traditional revenues may decline or at least fragment), who will be the gatekeepers, when and where, and so on. Food-chain conflicts, galore," Leonhard relates. "To me, it looks like we are moving towards an era of utter interdependence rather than continued or increased independence."

Boyd observes that our concept of "television" is evolving, encompassing a spectrum of devices that capture signals with information. With the proliferation of tablets and smartphones -- not to mention laptops -- people are discovering new ways to ingest TV programming.

Boyd points to a recent Razorfish/Yahoo study that finds 94% of people do email, IM, social network, or talk via phone while watching TV, 80% are using their mobile phone, and 15% are using their phone the entire time. "The old rivalrous mode of TV viewing — principally watching the plain vanilla standalone TV, and perhaps talking with others actually in the room — is effectively dead," Boyd writes. "There is research demonstrating that over 75% of users who have access to mobile devices or a laptop while watching TV will spend more than half of the time looking at the second screen, not the TV."

As a result, Boyd continues, this is creating a land-grab race of Internet-based second-screen providers, such as Google and Facebook. "The ability of the internet giants to invest in new production, and to circumvent cable’s scarcity-based distribution chain, means that in only five years or so, the landscape of the TV marketplace will be very very different."

This is also fueling new advertising models that are "more aligned with web advertising models" that are already emerging on the second screen, Boyd adds.  "These will lead to a rapid decrease in the profitability of the Old TV model as ads playing on the dumb TV device are displaced by ads and other forms of participative sponsorship on the second screen: on users’ smart phones and tablets."

Boyd identifies 13 leading disruptors shaping the emerging Social TV market:

Amazon: "Amazon Prime Instant Video is a streaming service that competes with Netflix and Hulu Plus."

Apple: "Anticipate a game-changing move from Apple, whose iTV is likely to roll out in late 2012 or early 2013. At the very least, an Apple solution that disrupts the industry the way that the iTunes/iPod combination disrupted and remade the music business would push many Old TV brands out of business, and open the doors to a ‘new normal’ for TV. The company’s iPhone and iPad are the defining hardware of the current era."

Facebook: "Facebook is a default second screen application for many Facebook users, simply because it is central to their social identity. Look to the partnerships — and possible acquisitions — that Facebook has structured with Netflix, Hulu, IMDb, Flister, DirecTV and Miso."

GetGlue: GetGlue is a social network for entertainment that "is enjoying very fast growth: 800% increase in check-ins in the first half of 2011, and 2 million users joined in 2011. GetGlue has integrations with social platforms Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Foursquare, and with DirecTV."

Hulu: Hulu, a vast collection of on-demand shows, movies, and documentaries, "has the highest level of engagement after YouTube at 3.2 hours/month," and "released Hulu Plus — unlimited streaming for $7.99/month — and is moving onto a wide variety of set top boxes and TV."

IntoNow/Yahoo: IntoNow is a social networking site for conversing about and identifying shows being watched. "As befits a major media company, Yahoo has integrated streaming news headlines, and very deep stats for sports. Looks like the best sports-oriented second screen app."

Miso: "Miso is another pure play second screen application, and has ...created an innovative feature, called SideShows, so that additional content can be synchronized with TV content, like trivia contests, or point to additional information online."

Netflix: "Netflix is repositioning itself as a competitor to HBO as a way to develop more partnerships with cable operators, instead of being viewed as an over-the-top competitor to the cable companies."

Shazam: "Shazam started as a music recognition service, based on audio fingerprinting, but the company has extended the technology to recognize TV and movies. The company... is involved in a lot of network projects.... The company is planning to get more involved in advertising and coupon distribution."

thePlatform: thePlatform, an online video management and publishing company and subsidiary of Comcast, is "basically grappling with the big data in TV use. The company has a new initiative for its TV Everywhere offering, marketed to cable operators, slicing data to create better packages of channels."

Twitter: "Twitter has become a major element of TV: hashtags are everywhere on TV, and Twitter’s management is actively working to get Twitter streams integrated into programming."

Umami: Umami, which has just completed its beta trial period, "is another pure play second screen application, employing audio fingerprinting, and offers a Freezeframe feature, where users can share a still image captured from a show."

YouTube/Google: "YouTube (part of Google) reported over 1 trillion views in 2011. 60 hours of video is uploaded to their servers every minute, and 3 billion hours of video are watched per month, at the time of writing this report. $3.1 billion is projected for online video in 2012, and YouTube is likely to gain the majority of that money."

(Photo: US National Archives.)

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Joe McKendrick

Contributing Editor

Joe McKendrick is an independent analyst who tracks the impact of information technology on management and markets. He is a co-author of the SOA Manifesto and has written for Forbes, ZDNet and Database Trends & Applications. He holds a degree from Temple University. He is based in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure