Social TV – The Second Screen


The chance that you or someone you know has a tablet or smartphone is growing. The chance that those same people are using one or both devices while they watch traditional programmed television is growing even faster.

The Second Screen, as it is being called, is a new and compelling avenue for content providers, community builders and advertisers to come together.

Why is the second screen driving this change? Three reasons:





That’s So 1980

The old guard Set Top Box (STB), which is what the majority of households have installed, is difficult if not impossible to upgrade once it has left the factory. This is chiefly because the ability to perform meaningful over-the-air (OTA) upgrades or changes (i.e. how applications found on your smartphone are updated with the latest release) just doesn’t exist. Without OTA, the ability to change and adapt to new customer feedback is anemic at best.

Connectivity for the STB device - downstream to the home – is good. Bandwidth is constrained, however, on the upstream channel. This constraint limits the size and frequency that user data can be fed back to the operator. If the operator doesn’t know what is happening in the ecosystem, moment to moment, how can they create a compelling experience to the user? Social networks might as well not exist either, as there is no way to connect into them.

Lastly, user data is the super fuel that is required to transform the viewing model from ‘push’ to ‘interactive’. STBs dearth of data necessarily creates a disconnect between service provider and service consumer. They don’t know you and therefore can’t tailor an experience for you.


New And Improved Formula – Meet Social TV

There are now more than a few social TV companies vying for space on your mobile device or tablet. Because these fledgling enterprises are creating dynamic applications on powerful, connected devices they have the grand opportunity to deliver a personal media experience never before imaginable.

Given this new freedom of interaction and deployment, a few strategies are emerging that aim to create that winning user experience.

Companion Services

Got cable? These companies provide cool new ways to interact with the programming, share the experience with friends, buy related items and even earn points for being a loyal watcher. Nice.



This is a clever app for your iPad that seems to be focused heavily on social interaction. Find out what your friends are watching, invite a friend to watch a show with you or buy the games, music or other merchandise related to the show. Check out this video for a comprehensive overview.



This iPhone app is all about checking in to a show – and they have some powerful tech to help you do this automagically. After checking in, users earn reward points for the length of time they spend watching (points are redeemable for physical goods – cool), can find out about which shows are being talked about, post updates to Facebook and more. While not connected to the social graph yet, it is surely in the works.


Cable Cutting


If you want to go completely outside the bounds of connected television, then Frequency offers up a compelling product. The iPad app can connect into your social graph, pull in and organize video and social conversation while providing an elegant navigation metaphor. More can be seen in this review below.


What’s In It For Me?

As I’ve mentioned before on my blog, doing something smart with the user generated data will go a long way to create differentiated experiences. I’m looking forward to the possibilities.