Social television is the union of television and social media. Millions of people now share their TV experience with other viewers on social media such as Twitter and Facebook using smartphones and tablets. The result is a massive and rapidly expanding real-time focus group and promotional force.
The social TV market covers the technologies that support communication and social interaction around TV as well as companies that study television-related social behaviour and measure social media activities tied to specific TV broadcasts – many of which have attracted significant investment from established media and technology companies. The market is also seeing numerous tie-ups between broadcasters and social networking players such as Twitter and Facebook. The market is expected to be worth $256bn by 2017.
Social TV was named one of the 10 most important emerging technologies by the MIT Technology Review on Social TV in 2010. And in 2011, David Rowan, the editor of Wired magazine, named Social TV at number three of six in his peek into 2011 and what tech trends to expect to get traction. Ynon Kreiz, CEO of the Endemol Group told the audience at the Digital Life Design (DLD) conference in January 2011: "Everyone says that social television will be big. I think it’s not going to be big — it’s going to be huge".
Much of the investment in the earlier years of social TV went into standalone social TV apps. The industry believed these apps would provide an appealing and complimentary consumer experience which could then be monetized with ads. These apps featured TV listings, check-ins, stickers and synchronised second-screen content but struggled to attract users away from Twitter and Facebook. Most of these companies have since gone out of business or been acquired amid a wave of consolidation and the market has instead focused on the activities of the social media channels themselves such as Twitter Amplify.
Twitter vs Facebook
Twitter and Facebook are both helping users connect around media, which can provoke strong debate and engagement. Both social platforms want to be the 'digital watercooler' and host conversation around TV because it provides them with monetizable data about what media people consume which can then be used to generate advertising revenue.
As an open platform, conversation on Twitter is closely aligned with real-time events. In May 2013, it launched Twitter Amplify – an advertising product for media and consumer brands. With Amplify, Twitter runs video highlights from major live broadcasts, with advertisers’ names and messages playing before the clip. Then in October 2013, Comcast announced a partnership with NBCUniversal and Twitter, to allow users to tune into live streaming from their set-top box, smartphone or tablet by tapping a ‘See It’ button embedded in selected tweets.
Facebook introduced a number of features in 2013 to drive conversation around TV including hashtags, verified profiles and embeddable posts. It also opened up new data visualization APIs for TV news and other media outlets, enabling them to search for a word and see a firehose of public posts that mention it as well as show how many people mentioned a word in both public and private posts during a set time frame, with a demographic breakdown of the age, gender, and location of these people.
In January 2014, Facebook announced a partnership with UK-based social TV analytics company SecondSync which saw the social network make its social TV available outside the company for the first time. Facebook struck the partnership to help marketers understand how people are using the social network to talk about topics such as TV. However, Twitter responded by acquiring SecondSync and Parisian social TV firm Mesagraph three months later. These acquisitions, as well as a partnership with research company Kantar (which it had been working with to develop a suite of analytics tools for the British TV industry since August 2013) strengthened Twitter's dominance of the "second screen" - TV viewers using tablets and smartphones to share their TV experience on social media. With the additional analytic tools, Twitter was able to improve the firm's offering to advertisers, allowing them to, for instance, only promote a tweet onto the timelines of users who were watching a certain programme.
By February 2014, all four major U.S. TV networks had signed up to the Amplify program, bringing a variety of premium TV content onto the social platform in the form of in-tweet real-time video clips. In March 2014, ITV became the first major broadcaster in the UK to sign up to Twitter Amplify and Twitter introduced one-tap video playback across its mobile apps to further enhance the consumer experience.
Social TV advertising
According to BI Intelligence, there are variety of applications for social TV, including support for TV ad sales, optimizing TV ad buys, making ad buys more efficient, as a complement to audience measurement, and eventually, audience forecasting and real-time optimization. Social TV data can be like having a thousands-strong focus group at your fingertips. Applied well, social TV can create a positive feedback loop for generating ultra-sticky TV programming and multi-screen ad campaigns.
Social television in numbers
Viewers share their TV experience on social media in real-time as events unfold: between 88-100m Facebook users login to the platform during the primetime hours of 8pm – 11pm in the US. The volume of social media engagement in TV is also rising - according to Nielsen SocialGuide, there was a 38% increase in tweets about TV in 2013 to 263m.
For the 2014 Super Bowl, Twitter reported that a record 24.9 million tweets about the game were sent during the telecast, peaking at 381,605 tweets per minute. Facebook reported that 50 million people discussed the Super Bowl, generating 185 million interactions.
The 2014 Oscars generated 5m tweets, viewed by an audience of 37m unique Twitter users and delivering 3.3bn impressions globally as conversation and key moments were shared virally across the platform.
Here are some examples of how TV executives are integrating social elements with TV shows:
- C-SPAN streamed tweets from US Senators and Representatives during the quorum call 
- The Voice had the judges of the program tweet during the show and the posts scrolls on the bottom of the screen. The use of Twitter also led to an increase in viewers.
- "Glee" Entertainment Weekly created a second screen viewing platform for the Glee season 3 premiere.
- Erika Jonietz. "Making TV Social, Virtually" MIT Technology Review. (January 11, 2010) 
- AmigoTV (Alcatel-Lucent; Coppens et al.) – 2004 www.ist-ipmedianet.org/Alcatel_EuroiTV2004_AmigoTV_short_paper_S4-2.pdf
- Nextream (MIT Media Lab, Martin et al.) – 2010
- Social Interactive Television: Immersive Shared Experiences and Perspectives (P. Cesar, D. Geerts, and K. Chorianopoulos (eds.)) – 2009
- Social TV and the Emergence of Interactive TV – Multimedia Research Group – November 2010
- Boxee – acquired by Samsung
- GetGlue – acquired by i.TV
- KIT digital
- Miso TV
- Tank Top TV
- Xbox Live
- Interactive television
- Personal broadcasting
- Smart TV
- Social aspects of television
- Social media and television
- Social Network Service
- Social software
- Dumenco, Simon (April 13, 2012). "Believe The Hype? Four Things Social TV Can Actually Do". Ad Age. Retrieved May 24, 2014.
- "Watchlist Predicts Fall TV Show Success".
- Lomas, Natasha (October 12, 2012). "Report: Social TV Market To Be Worth $256.44BN By 2017; Europe Taking Largest Share Now". TechCrunch. Retrieved May 24, 2014.
- "MIT Technology Review on Social TV".
- "David Rowan, the Editor of Wired magazine".
- "Ynon Kreiz, CEO of the Endemol Group told a packed crowd".
- Roettgers, Janko (January 29, 2014). "Let’s face it: social TV is dead". Gigaom. Retrieved May 24, 2014.
- Constine, Josh (May 21, 2014). "Facebook Adds Shazam-Style Audio Recognition To Help You Automatically Tag Posts With TV Shows And Songs". TechCrunch. Retrieved May 26, 2014.
- Indvik, Lauren (May 23, 2013). "Twitter Amplify Will Bring Sponsored Video Clips to Your Feed". Mashable. Retrieved May 25, 2014.
- Lunden, Ingrid (May 23, 2013). "Twitter Launches TV Ad Targeting, Twitter Amplify For Real-Time Videos In Stream". TechCrunch. Retrieved May 25, 2014.
- Summers, Nick (October 9, 2013). "Twitter and Comcast’s new ‘See it’ button lets you watch and record TV shows directly from a tweet". The Next Web. Retrieved May 26, 2014.
- Protalinski, Emil (January 30, 2014). "Facebook opens up its social TV data for the first time in partnership with UK analytics firm SecondSync". The Next Web. Retrieved June 1, 2014.
- Hern, Alex (April 1, 2014). "Twitter buys UK 'social TV' firm SecondSync". The Guardian. Retrieved June 1, 2014.
- Wasserman, Todd (February 27, 2014). "Twitter Snags the Last of the Major Networks, ABC, for Amplify". Mashable. Retrieved May 25, 2014.
- Plunkett, John (March 31, 2014). "ITV commercial boss warns brands that 90% of content is 'crap'". Guardian. Retrieved April 12, 2014.
- Smith, Cooper (September 30, 2013). "How Social Media Is Being Used To Amplify TV Advertising". Business Insider. Retrieved June 1, 2014.
- Nielsen Social (October 7, 2013). "Facebook Study: We're Bigger Than Prime-Time TV". Nielsen Social. Retrieved May 25, 2014.
- Gross, Doug (February 3, 2014). "Super Bowl sets Twitter records". Retrieved May 26, 2014.
- Abbruzzese, Jason (February 3, 2014). "50 Million People Discussed the Super Bowl on Facebook". Retrieved May 26, 2014.
- Dredge, Stuart (April 9, 2014). "Twitter stakes its claim as TV's 'synchronised social soundtrack'". Retrieved May 26, 2014.
- [dead link]
- 6/20/2011. Shirley Halperin http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/how-voice-uses-twitter-raise-203243
- 9/20/11. http://tvrecaps.ew.com/viewer/episode/?id=EP011413890047
- Making TV Social, Virtually
- PDF Date accessed: 2011-10-1
- Social Interactive Television
- Emergence of Interactive TV