Social TV makes the sparks fly at Orange

I will be speaking at Connected TV Summit next Wednesday about “Orange’s ‘Blended TV’ and the impact of ‘social’ in television“.

Following a previous interview with IPTV News by Jamie Beach last February, let’s come back on the uptake of Social TV, and its impact on contact discovery and augmented TV experience.

What is Social TV?

Social TV connects viewers to both content and to each other.

The claim “while we watch, we Tweet” turns to be more and more true. But Social TV covers an extended range of functional domains:

  • Firstly is the domain of Content discovery where the EPG (Electronic Program Guide) is enhanced with Internet information web sites, and social recommendations through Twitter feed and Facebook. Social reviews nurture social curation, empowering viewers to filter and voice their opinions, and then to participate.
  • Secondly there is Participative TV where viewers interact with the program for voting, betting, polling, playing, converse with characters and TV presenter, Live Tweet or Facebook chat, and buy things related to the program. “Listening” to the social conversation adds value notices Strategy Analytics.
  • Finally the domain of Device and cloud control is where you enable channel flicking from a smart phone, flinging stored or bookmarked content around the home, or the world, one-click options to bookmark or save shows to cloud storage (universal queue).

Social TV corresponds as well to the emergence of the Companion App on smart phone & tablets, making all the connections, discovery, participation, control and giving access to all sorts of TV viewing as well: “broadcast” TV, VoD, catch up, and streaming media. Tablet is the next remote control!

Smart phones and tablets are called the second screen in this context. A second screen brings many benefits: it is convenient (“big picture on TV, Facebook on second screen”), intuitive, frictionless, personal, and of vital importance to many operators, it is already paid for and can be monetized!

While Social TV meets high usage growthcompetition is fierce: more than “50 apps currently socialize your TV“!

Why is Social TV a disruptive market?

Social TV is not disruptive because of the technology, but by challenging several business models:

  • Social is driving tune-in to a TV Show: Nielsen has analysed the relationsghip between social media buzz and TV ratings. It has shown “significant relationship throughout a TV show’s season among all age groups, with the strongest correlation among younger demos.
Social TV: Tapping into Disruptive Innovation
  • Social media is a great measure of audience engagement, viewers engaging to become content ambassadors on online media, before, during, and after the show is aired.
  • Social recommendations encourage interactivity, meaning stickiness to a program, and provide strong user behavior data, that can further processed to target users for advertising purpose and specific offerings. Show me the money!
  • Second screen is the natural media for Social TV applications: we can assume program guide will shift progressively from TV press magazines to electronic device.

Some predict an even stronger impact, amending the story telling:

  • Viewers’ engagement around TV shows will become so massive that it will start undermining the current ways of creating shows and become the main driver for new TV content” claims Anne-Marie Roussel, expert in Social TV at Sharp in Silicon Valley. Displaying Tweets becomes like showing “exclamation marks” expressed by the audience.
  • It’s a major issue for broadcasters and networks. “The future isn’t either traditional or digital: it’s a feedback loop between the two. Television fans want to get involved and be counted. It’s how creative we are in engaging those fans – and keeping them connected – that will determine how potent and profitable we will be in the future.” says Kevin Reilly, President of Entertainment, Fox Broadcasting.
  • “Content will then be created with social interaction in mind”, adds Anne-Marie, “the audience will be able to interact with the storyline”. Voting online for some game shows, and affecting the outcome of the show is just a start: welcome to the era of Transmedia!

What innovative path did Orange find in this fast evolving market?

We laid our design on 3 pillars: belief, metaphor, and model following Prof. Nonaka’s framework.

  • Belief = our starting point was the belief that there is great value in social conversations around TV, but that this value is difficult to capture with the tools available to us, especially for non frequent users. A trifling 14% of viewers know what they want to watch when turning on their TV’s. Our idea was then to filter out the noise so as to enable content discovery in real-time, by providing TV buzz, sorting trending TV programs and filtering related conversations, to give viewers the power to connect with each other and build relationship. “The power of social recommendation is “the magic” it brings to content discovery” says Redbeemedia.

  • Metaphor = Our metaphor was that of a filter, or a funnel.
  • Model = from the outset, we based our approach on collaborative design. Rather than completing an end-user application, we focused our innovation endeavor on a social TV component, which could be embedded in various end-user applications and devices, letting others make value out of our data and build services on top of our platform. We developed this semantic engine, Blended TV in an open innovation framework, partnering with social media intelligence specialist Mesagraph, benefitting from the precious overview of designer Jean-Louis frechin (@nodesign), from sharp advices from Social TV experts (@kindoftv, MEFoucart, @gip89, @_advid_, @laouffir, @cgiorgi), and leveraging on HTML5 and interactive video skills from Djingle.

Our bet starts to win-back: developed in very short time, Blended TV is currently used or in the process of being used by various applications within Orange (Orange Sports, TV Check and Rendez-Vous TV / Le Mag TV companion apps, Roland Garros app, Orange TV web service, Ciné Day, UEFA Euro competition), outpassing TV programs boundaries to include movies, sports players and competitions, and VoD, providing real-time data view of trending topics.

What plans does Orange have to leverage Social TV features?

Our DNA is made up of helping everyone to communicate, interact and entertain more! Therefore, TV and Social media encounters made the sparks fly at Orange, resulting in exciting innovation initiatives in three complementary directions – the TV Guide, social gaming, and Social TV intelligence (that we presented above).

‘RendezVousTV’ is the next-generation TV Guide for smartphones and tablets (iPads). It is an enhanced TV guide which can be used to discover what’s on TV, view all of the available channels listings, get plenty of real-time information on programmes, and share on Twitter and Facebook.

The viewer can play a video-on-demand title, and connect to the Orange TV mobile app to watch Live TV. RendezVousTV is also a participation TV app, creating interaction between a live show and the active users of RendezVousTV, prompting users with notifications to access additional show-related content, take part in games and quizzes, and use the application to vote directly for their favourite talent. It also provides innovative advertising format on smartphone, which can be synchronized with the Live TV ad spot.

‘TV Check’ is a check-in experience that facilitates social dialogue around TV content via smartphones and tablet: it enables TV viewers to check in to the shows that they are watching, and earn points and badges as a reward. The application encourages users to discover new content that their community shares and also to share their favourite programmes with their friends and community.

The app taps into Facebook’s social graph and greatly simplifies Twitter communication around TV programmes in a dedicated second screen experience. Currently covering the French market and available through the app store, please watch @TVcheck for news about country roll-outs.

The next challenge is the customer experience

Let us not deny it: the ultimate challenge for those completing an end-user Social TV service is to create a great customer experience, understanding customer behaviour, and providing simplicity and relevancy.

Consumers use a variety of sources to discover what’s personally relevant as explains Richard Edelman in “Media Cloverleaf”. I believe the user interface has to screen the complexity of the engine, reflected in the various spheres, and in the range of tools (recommendation tool, Social TV intelligence engine) that could be processed, learning to know the viewer better everyday.

Cory Bergman founder of Lostremote, a web site dedicated to Social TV, has a creative idea, displaying 4 kinds of recommendations :

  1. new episodes of shows you customarily watch;
  2. current shows your friends enjoy;
  3. trending shows across the larger population, and
  4. what your friends are watching now.”

Maybe like the four sides of a cube?



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