Facebook just announced some sweeping changes, among them “frictionless” sharing for viewers of Hulu and Netflix. Once you install these apps on your Facebook page, anything you watch on those services is automatically shared on your real-time ticker, e.g. “Sean is watching 30 Rock on Hulu.” Friends can click through to watch the same episode with you, and chat live on Facebook while you watch. This is a massive leap forward in the concept of “social TV” -- or is it? It depends on your definition of “social TV.”
From a “social as sharing” standpoint this will certainly be huge. But will this affect consumers’ linear TV consumption and will these sharing features lead to a rise in non-linear co-viewing? Both are unclear.
Here’s our view - if serendipity strikes, a friend out of however-many-you-have on Facebook may choose to watch and chat about that same episode of “30 Rock” on Hulu with you at that very moment. What are the odds? At best, this is a “micro-social” TV experience. The big, proven potential of social TV still lies with linear TV, where there is an opportunity to create social television experiences among large groups of people.
Linear TV still dominates viewing consumption. Nielsen says the average American consumes 35+ hours of linear TV per week compared to 2 hours 25 minutes of time-shifted TV and 33 minutes of video on the web. Every marketer will agree that linear TV is unique in its ability to attract large and sustained audiences.
And with social media, linear TV has gotten even more engaging. Today more than two-thirds of viewers are on a “second screen” while watching TV. Over the last several years, social media has created a new shared viewing experience, cultivating passionate audiences for shows like Glee and True Blood and driving viewership for events like the MTV Video Music Awards and The Oscars. Deloitte predicts that more than 1 billion TV-related tweets will be sent in 2011 - you’re missing half the fun if you’re not engaging on two screens.
This is significant for networks and marketers because people watching linear TV and using social media are highly engaged viewers. The more they share via social networks, the more they influence their social graph, potentially driving tune-in and ratings. Socially engaged viewers are powerful influencers. We believe that fostering social experiences around linear TV provides the greatest benefits to the television audience, networks and marketers.