This week we saw a new Google TV offering from Logitech and there’s also early indication the revamped Apple TV is selling at a brisk pace. But these headlines have me asking the question, would Facebook ever go after the third screen in a more serious way than simply offering a widget? My feeling is yes, as it seems like the TV screen is too big a honeypot to ignore for a company that lives on advertising dollars.
TV is where consumers spend large amounts of time; being able to, in some way, control and participate in that entertainment experience can both reinforce online consumer loyalty and also create entirely new avenues for revenue (not the least of which is a large TV advertising market).
As you can see by the matrix below, each of the Internet/tech giants listed first forayed onto the TV screen with a “toe-in-the-water” effort, which often fails. This can be because — as is the case with, say, Microsoft — the strategy may be too heavy-handed an effort to simply extend a company’s core success (i.e., the PC Operating System) into an entirely new space. Or like Apple, the company may simply be looking to take a low-risk, exploratory first-stab at a new market.
So who of the big-Internet/technology players would be next? If I were a betting man, I’d say we’ll eventually see a Facebook push into the TV space.
I think we’ll eventually see a platform-centric play from the social network, though not like Google TV, which takes the form of a complete stack from OS on up (though I wouldn’t rule that out entirely). More likely, a Facebook TV strategy would involve a highly evolved user-interface and service layer offering that continues to suck up features and associated advertising dollars.
Here a few possible scenarios:
1. The evolved widget strategy: Facebook could create a TV-optimized over-the-top channel that is essentially an evolution of the Facebook widget we see on FiOS and other OTT offerings. The channel would reside on connected-TVs and set-tops. It would hook into a person’s own network and features, recommend video content and have a real-time feed of information.
A strategy like this would likely require only simple extensions of the partnerships Facebook has in place today with its widget offering.
2. The middle-ground strategy. This would be a Facebook TV feed-based user-interface that presents content and other media properties in a Facebook-centric environment. Implementation could be a middleware-like approach or through the browser; the offering would allow Facebook to control some advertising and offer paid-content subscriptions through partners.
The middle-ground approach would require a deeper integration with TV partners and online-content partners, but it’s likely this scenario could be offered post-shipment of connected devices, through an app download and/or service sign-up through a browser.
3. The living room domination strategy: To rule over its competitors in the living room, the social network would need an immersive Facebook TV that includes OTT streaming and possibly broadcast offerings within a Facebook-centric UI. It would also need a platform for applications and content-centric services, and possibly contextualized Facebook recommendations of entertainment (think Facebook Likes as a TV-content recommendation engine). Chances are, this more evolved strategy would be done through higher-level integration and would involve a fairly evolved partner ecosystem for TV and set-top OEMs, not to mention content partners, to execute this strategy.
Whether Facebook would go down any of these routes is speculation at this point, but I think we’ll eventually see the company push forward into the living room. There is no doubt that any web service offering with half-a-billion accounts and the branding of Facebook could effectively pull its efforst and resources another screen, but the offering would need to be more than a simple re-cast of the PC-web offering. And it would need to factor in how consumers like to use media on the couch, which is, as we know, more passive than either PC or Mobile.
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