An interview with Bill Scott of Easel TV
I was recently asked after a conference talk about my views on Social TV by a student who was researching it. I must admit I didn't have much of a view on it... It's not a topic that we've covered much on Smart Insights either, so when I saw it was covered at the recent Econsultancy Future of Digital Marketing conference by Bill Scott I was keen to learn more from a specialist.
Bill is COO of Easel TV who work with broadcasters, content producers, pay TV operators and major consumer brands to help develop services to engage consumers in connected TV. I found Bill's answers helpful for explaining what Social TV and showing it's potential through the examples. I hope you find it interesting.
What is Social TV?
Q1.What is the scope of social TV? Is it any form of interaction with a brand via web or mobile while "co-consuming" with a "second screen"? Or is it limited to interactions with programmes?
I think of Social TV as being any interaction within a group of people that is fundamentally about something that is on the TV, whether that is the primary channel or not. This could be driven by a live broadcast where the show itself is the focus or the show is just televising another event. Either way, the TV can drive the audience to interact with the show itself, the event itself and with each other.
This is about participating, sharing and interacting within a community of some form; perhaps a group of friends who already know each other or perhaps a group of people who only come together for the event.
The challenge for brands is to successfully facilitate that community interaction without scaring people off. Can the brand create a buzz beforehand? Can it take ownership of the interaction or at least establish a presence in the company of the other parties involved (i.e. sports teams, personalities, the show, the broadcaster)?
Opportunities for brands using Social TV
Q2. What are the best recent examples of brands (not programme makers) who are using different applications of social TV? Is it for big brands only who are already advertising or sponsoring TV or are there opportunities for smaller businesses?
There aren’t too many great examples yet, as most have been run by broadcasters or event rights-holders, who will then offer simple branding to advertisers. Heineken Star Player is one example, though that’s a little old now.
Red Bull continues to innovate, though much of this doesn’t see a TV screen that often – relying more on the web. Waitrose ran a Christmas TV commercial which enabled viewers to access more content through augmented reality, including a Heston Blumenthal interview and a cake-making tutorial by Delia Smith.
Most though, are doing things through the broadcasters – like ITV’s relationship with Shazam which is encouraging a second-screen response to commercials.
Integration and impact of Social Media
Q3. How can social media be built into these campaigns to involve more people to get amplification? Who has done this well?
The TV is really good at getting attention, at making the call-to-action. What we then need is a seamless transition from broadcast call-to-action to social transaction.
Technologies like Shazam, using audio fingerprinting, and others are really only a stopgap solution until we can make it properly seamless. So you could say that whilst things like the Polar Bowl (CocaCola Superbowl ads linked to bears reacting to the game) were very successful, they don’t have a long term future because they’re not seamless.
You had to have the right app on your phone/tablet beforehand in order to interact. If we can at least initiate the transaction through the TV – think red button, but consumer friendly – then it is potentially seamless.
So far we’re only just beginning to do this and most connected TV platforms don’t offer this capability – at least not yet. TiVo does to some extent and YouView will do so too. Both will develop over time.
Examples of companies using easelTV
Q4. How do your platforms from easelTV help companies integrate Social TV into their campaigns? Who are some examples of who have used these?
It is early days for us and Social TV. Most of our work to date has been about getting the right content to the right screen at the right time.
We are working with a broadcaster and content producer to allow chunks of content to be shared through Facebook, yet yiewed through the TV. Watch this space early next year.
Easel TV components enabled the Harry Potter app on VM: TiVo – which featured twitter integration around a live stream of Premiere from Trafalgar Square (Deathly Hallows Part 2).
We have run a campaign with Virgin Media and HTC around the launch of the HTC one phone in April. That was part of a multi-channel campaign and our part was to create a video-centric experience on the TiVo box. It worked well. The next step – for VM’s next client – is to add social interaction.
The Future of Social TV
Q5. How do you see the scope of Social TV changing in the future, particularly with the Internet-enabled Smart or Connected TVs - do they give new options for Social TV?
As noted above, If Smart TVs can make the transaction seamless, then they can play a vital role in taking the TV audience on a journey from lean back watching to engagement with the brand and the communities that the brand facilitates or participates in.
This requires that consumer friendly update to red button (fast, non-invasive, not blanking the screen, not taking you away from the broadcast).
The really important thing is to remember the context of the TV in the home – as an entertainment device – not just another web browser. Just because the technology allows you to pull up a web page it doesn’t mean that’s what the viewer will engage with in the middle of a TV show. Simple, overlaid but non-invasive graphics can start the engagement, which may then continue on other devices before coming back to the TV.