If you own a tablet or smartphone, and you watch a fair amount of TV, chances are you’ve vacillated between the two screens. That simultaneous companion usage, or Mobile as 2nd screen, has the advertising industry pretty excited these days, and for good reason. Smartphones interacting with “traditional” TV are creating opportunities for brands to establish meaningful one-to-one conversations with consumers that were never before possible.
Nielsen noted back in 2010 that 1 in 7 people who were watching the Super Bowl and the Olympics opening ceremony were surfing the Web at the same time. A more recent Nielsen study in October ’11 found that figure trending upwards, with approximately 40% of tablet and smartphone owners in the U.S. reporting having used their devices daily while watching TV.
It’s clear with that sort of year-over-year growth that Mobile is well-positioned to become a gateway enabling social interaction between viewers and broadcasters, and along the way, facilitating a host of innovative opportunities for marketers to tap the power of highly engaged 2nd screen viewer communities.
That said, this phenomenon is still so new that the advertising community is working to understand exactly how consumers will want to use it.
With no clear leader in the Social TV space as of yet, Miso, GetGlue, Umami and Peel, amongst others, are all currently vying to become the go-to 2nd screen TV companion app platform. Though their offerings are somewhat different, they share a common core intent: striving to add value to the experience of watching your favorite TV shows (and of course, engaging with brands) by facilitating an element of social interactivity.
Amidst the rapidly evolving Social TV landscape, a few of these key players have been making headlines of late, leveraging appointment TV viewing events that attract broad and mass audiences—the Super Bowl, the Academy Awards and American Idol, for example—as springboards for driving consumer awareness of Social TV and trial usage of their respective application-based technologies.
Earlier this week, Peel—a startup company that is looking to turn your smartphone into super-powered universal remote (among other things)—announced that their free application will serve as the 2nd screen engagement platform for upcoming episodes of American Idol. The application, while currently only available to iOS users (don’t worry Android owners, it’s coming soon to a Droid near you), will enable viewers to voice their positive or negative sentiment for contestants and judges alike—in real time. By tapping “cheer” or “boo” buttons as often as they like during the program, users will have the opportunity to play an active role in the broadcast, In addition to being fun (and likely addictive), this intuitive approach to empowering viewers has strong potential applications for other types of programming beyond reality TV.
Social TV was understandably a focus at this year’s CETW conference in Las Vegas and has been consistently pegged by technology and trend-spotting gurus like WIRED and the MIT Technology Review as one of the most important emerging technologies to look out for. That said, the current Social TV landscape is fragmented and highly competitive, with new solution providers continually entering the mix. In order for Social TV to achieve widespread consumer adoption and usage, a clear leader needs to emerge from the crowd of applications; the killer app of Social TV will need to deliver seamless integration with TV content via a simple interface. Peel’s recent partnership with American Idol represents a promising step towards that ultimate goal.
You can bet that we here at TargetCast will not only be watching to see how consumers respond…we’ll be interacting right along with them.