Social TV is the Future in Middle East

The concept of sitting around your television with friends and having a conversation is not new.

But Social TV is changing our cyber-living-room with increased interactivity with the content through internet. In a broad term Social TV refers to technology that supports social interactions among viewers by the use of social media.

In an attempt to bring back the social aspects of television lost since the introduction of multiple-screen in homes, Social TV aims to connect viewers with their friends even when they are not watching together. As a concept, social television is not linked specifically to Internet TV, IP TV, or Web TV. It is also not limited to a traditional home screen, but could be available on a desktop, mobile device, tablet computer or notebook. All the mobile devices are collectively known as the second screen.

Many Reality TV shows like X-Factor have already begun to integrate social TV either through polling or integrating social elements within the show.

News channels are also encouragingly using social media tools to gather content and interact with viewers. Integration of twitter feed in news hour and citizen journalism are good examples.

Social TV is definitely the buzzword for the year 2012.

Consumers are turning to the so-called second screen like never before.

Using a laptop in front of the TV is not a new behavior. Every time a commercial plays on the television I switch back to my laptop. TV Channels are yet to capitalize this opportunity of interacting with the user when the commercials are on.

A 2011 study conducted by Yahoo/Nielsen found that as many as 86 percent of viewers use mobile devices while watching TV. This may give a hint about the usage habits of a television viewer that cannot be ignored.

Not being able to capitalize on the second screen during the ad time cedes it to Facebook and Twitter. Broadcasters get rewarded if they find a way to drive engagement and increase viewer-ship. As per the research conducted by Nielsen, Television shows that are widely discussed on social networks like Facebook and Twitter also have a tendency to have higher ratings than other shows. I hope it is now justified why Social TV is a growing trend for the year 2012.

How does a user socially interact with Television shows? The known mediums are Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Forums etc.

There are many Social TV apps that are generating organic content and allowing people to interact with the TV shows. 

IntoNow is a service that allows you to tell your friends what television shows and movies you’re watching in real time. You “check-in” by hitting a button and letting your phone listen to what you’re watching. Yahoo snatched up this audio-synchronization app for $20-$30 million last April, just 12 weeks after it was launched.

GetGlue launched in 2008 as a platform on which you could “check-in” to television shows, books, and movies, but TV

quickly became its primary application. GetGlue, and another check in app Miso, have both closed funding rounds in recent months.

Apple is also in the Social TV race. The much hyped Apple TV sold 2.8 million of the boxes in the year that ended in September 2011. AirPlay, a software tool included with Apple’s iPads and iPhones, is widely viewed as being potentially disruptive to the cable industry. AirPlay lets you wirelessly stream what’s on your iOS device to your HDTV and speakers via Apple TV. Or mirror exactly what’s on your mobile display to the big screen.

In the Middle East region Al Jazeera’s, “The Stream”, is doing an excellent job of combining social media and TV. The show producers thought of using the real-time and participatory nature of today’s Web to produce genuine content and build a community around it. They use skype to conduct interviews with participants and Google+ Hangouts for group interviews and Storify to curate social networks to build social stories.

I personally have not come across a TV show in the region that has integrated so many social media tools at the same time.

Social TV is primarily referred to the way that viewers use services like Twitter and Facebook to discuss or ‘check in’ television shows, which is happening increasingly on “second screen” devices like smart phones and tablets

With over 60 million people in the MENA region having access to Internet comes along with an expected growth of social TV support that’s in line with the global trends. Even though, many people may not use check in apps like Get Glue, the trend of using Facebook and Twitter to complement the television will grow on second screen devices.

The above article was published in Qatar Today’s June 2012 issue.


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