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. TV networks and rights holders are increasingly sharing video clips on social platforms to monetise engagement and drive tune-in.
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, Facebook Suggested Videos and Snapchat Discover - and the technologies that support them.
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 the engagement and data about what media people consume 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. 
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. 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, strengthened Twitter's dominance of the "second screen"
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 June 2014, Twitter acquired its Twitter Amplify partner in the U.S. SnappyTV, a company that was helping broadcasters and rights holders to share video content both organically across social and via Twitter’s Amplify program. Twitter continues to rely on Grabyo, which has also struck numerous deals with some of the largest broadcasters and rights holders in Europe and North America to share video content across Facebook and Twitter.
Facebook made significant changes to its platform in 2014 including updates to its algorithm to enhance how it serves video in users' feeds. It also launched video autoplay to get users to watch the videos in their feeds. It rapidly surpassed Twitter and by the end of 2014 it was enjoying three billion video views a day on its platform and had announced a partnership with the NFL, one of Twitter's most active Twitter Amplify partners. In April 2015, at its F8 Developer Conference, it revealed it was working with Grabyo among other technology partners to bring video onto its platform. Then in July it announced it would be launching Facebook Suggested Videos, bringing related videos and ads to anyone that clicks on a video - a move that not only competed with Twitter's commercial video offering but also put it in direct competition with YouTube.
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.
In 2014 the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC), hosts of Wimbledon, used Grabyo to share video content across social. The videos were viewed 3.5 million times across Facebook and Twitter. In partnered with Grabyo again in 2015 and the videos generated over 48 million views across Facebook and Twitter.
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
- Interactive Social TV on Service Oriented Environments: Challenges and Enablers (May 2011) 
- 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.
- 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.
- Sawers, Paul (June 19, 2014). "Twitter’s evolution as a broadcasting platform continues as it acquires live-TV clipping service SnappyTV". The Next Web. Retrieved August 28, 2014.
- Sawyers, Paul (June 10, 2014). "Wimbledon ‘near-live’ highlights will be broadcast globally across Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube". TNW. Retrieved June 12, 2014.
- Ashford, Holly (March 26, 2015). "Facebook partners with London-based start-up Grabyo". TVBEurope. Retrieved July 26, 2015.
- Wagner, Kurt (July 1, 2015). "YouTube Beware: Facebook Will Start Sharing Ad Revenue With Video Creators". Recode. Retrieved July 27, 2015.
- 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.
- Flomenbaum, Adam (July 17, 2015). "Wimbledon generates over 48 million video views across social platforms". Retrieved July 27, 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
- Kyriazis D. et al. (2011), Interactive Social TV on Service Oriented Environments: Challenges and Enablers, Third International Conference on Games and Virtual Worlds for Serious Applications (VS-GAMES), IEEE, pp. 152 – 155, doi:10.1109/VS-GAMES.2011.30