Half Of Cell Phone Users On Phones During TV - What It Means For Social TV, Olympics

No wonder television networks are wringing their hands over their social TV strategies. With the news from Pew this week that nearly half of cell phone users are on their phones while viewing TV, it’s understandable that broadcasters would be in a pickle about how to leverage this new behavior.

Digital research firm Futurescape released a new report this week underscoring the concern and quandaries that broadcasters face over social TV. Many broadcasters aren’t sure how to approach social media, such as whether to align with existing platforms like Facebook or Twitter or to invest in social TV startups. The upshot is that they are trying a range of social TV tactics, many of which include online video.

Several broadcasters have made investments in social TV startups. They include BSkyB in Britain with a 10% stake in Social TV startup zeebox, and Fox Broadcasting with a stake in ACTV8, which has rolled out apps for Fox shows such as New Girl. Then there’s ConnectTV, which is backed by Cox Media, EW Scripps, Gannett Broadcasting, Hearst Television and Meredith Corp, FutureScape said.

Other networks have introduced their own social TV platforms such as NBC’s Chatline for Dateline, an app that works on computers, phones and tablets and integrates Facebook, Twitter, GetGlue and the Dateline site. That’s similar to HBO Connect, the premium network’s second-screen experience for its shows. But then there’s still another strategy -- that of networks linking closely to existing social venues such as Twitter and Facebook, which seems to be sort of a “duh, of course you’d do that” approach.

But where will this net out? My money is on watching what works with the upcoming Olympics next week. This is a groundbreaking Games, and NBC continues to lead in online video by making its programming available across many platforms.

In turn, many of those platforms will include social media components, such as the Facebook Talk Meter designed to encourage TV viewers to talk up the Olympics on Facebook, and Facebook users to watch on TV. The network has also built social media components into many of its apps for live streaming of the events. If NBC is successful with social TV strategies for the Games, including for video, then its approach may rise to the top.

Social TV strategies are vital for networks because of the consumer reliance on cell phones. The Pew study said 23% of cell phone users text friends who are watching the same show in a different location. That’s the behavior that networks are trying to tap into with their social RC strategies. If they don’t capture that 23%, they’re losing a potential revenue stream.

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