The State of Social TV

1Executive Summary

After two and a half years of writing at NewTeeVee, we’re firmly of the belief that video wants to be social. Combining television and interactivity is one of those topics that makes sense. We like to be entertained together — even sitting with strangers in a dark movie theater or next to your significant other in the living room affords some notion of collective entertainment. But what about two people who are watching the same programming from different places?

The best technology solution for those solitary couch potatoes isn’t particularly wacky or paradigm-changing, but that’s kind of the charm. Put simply, it’s text chat. It’s not a difficult concept for either users and providers. We all know how to IM with friends, and TVs and computer monitors are quickly becoming one and the same. Now it’s just a question of when and how your conversations with friends will overlay your TV watching. Here’s a look at three companies taking promising social TV approaches.

Clipsync: Plugging Social into Network Sites

Founded by a former WebEx exec and funded by KPG Ventures and Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Clipsync powers social viewing rooms for CBS’s and its Hulu competitor, and has worked with MTV. Users watch content synchronously — meaning if you join late you miss the opening credits, and you can’t pause to go to the bathroom. A pre-roll ad runs before you join the program and then it flows without breaks. Watchers can add comments, take quizzes, place text and icons on the screen, and express themselves (pressing the “laugh” button makes your icon bounce).

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  1. Thanks for the comment Liz. But Variety didn’t have the full Facebook implementation, I believe, because it defaulted to everyone’s comments, not just friends’ comments. It seems like Facebook works ideally with a pretty precise situation of friends wanting to watch the same thing at the same time, so that might limit the advantages of its implementation.

  2. Liz Shannon Miller Friday, May 15, 2009

    I observed the Facebook tool in action on Oscar night while working at Variety, and it was really cool in concept. But in practice, the problem with that sort of chat mob is that it’s like shouting in a crowded room to no one in particular. Result: no one really listens.

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