The rise of Social TV

Thursday, March 21, 2013

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With the CMS as the content hub, use the second screen to tweet or blog about things happening on the current TV show, with connectivity to the website for comments, likes and other social linkages

Intelligent CMS can help advertisers and broadcasters build out across the connected landscape

Between TV sets, laptops, tablets and smartphones, the majority of our daily media interactions involve some kind of screen. Each day we spend almost five hours of leisure time and eight hours of work time looking at a screen. Peter G. Marsh, SVP for Atex Group Ltd, believes that whether we are leaning forward or lying back, multi-channel media providers are searching for ways to keep our eyes glued to their brands as we move from one screen to another throughout the day.

That’s where the Content Management System (CMS) becomes pivotal. When properly implemented, the CMS platform becomes the epicentre of a broadcast company’s content, audience and channel strategies. The enabling technologies in a top-tier CMS will help attract, engage and retain our eyeballs anytime, anywhere, on any device, and in any context where we are consuming brand content.

A recent Google study on cross-platform consumer behaviour talks about two modes of multi-screening that we all engage in: Sequential and Simultaneous Usage. Sequential usage is when we move from one device to another at different times to accomplish a task. Examples of sequential usage include shopping online, planning a trip, or managing finances.

Simultaneous usage is when we use more than one device at the same time that we are engaged in either related or unrelated activities. There are two kinds of simultaneous usage. Multi-tasking occurs when using more than one device for unrelated activities – such as checking email on our laptops while watching TV. Complementary usage occurs when we use multiple devices at the same time for related activities – such as watching a programme on TV and monitoring social channels on our smartphones to read what others are saying right now about the programme.

The most popular device for simultaneous multi-tasking is the TV. The Google study indicates that 81 percent of our multi-screening time is spent using a smartphone and TV together. Also, we use a laptop/desktop computer screen 61 percent of the time while we are simultaneously watching TV.

For broadcasters, this phenomenon represents an incredible opportunity for cross-promotion, brand extension and greater engagement across these multiple platforms. The key is to make the company’s website – as displayed on a tablet, smartphone or computer – the second screen destination for content that is relevant to what is being broadcast on TV.

Analysts use terms like “social TV” to define efforts that drive us consumers across platforms and encourage us to engage in content and develop loyalty. Gartner describes this as “giving users a seamless experience through companion-screen applications with real-time value, enabling them to participate in dialogue with other viewers and to remain engaged with the programmes.”

One media company that understands this deeply, and has implemented a highly successful multi-screen strategy, is Bell Astral Media in Montreal, Canada. Astral’s production director interactive media, Sophie Theberge, sums it up succinctly: “The primary purpose for the Web Publishing CMS is to allow content managers, editors and website strategists to continuously add and improve the content of websites with ease, so that web production efforts can be optimised to benefit from commercial project opportunities.”

Here are four mechanisms that can be implemented in a broadcaster’s CMS to help foster this multi-screening experience among viewing audiences:

Deliver contextually relevant content on the second screen

For example, a TV cooking show directs viewers to the website for recipes, nutritional details and other information. The CMS will store and display this information, including short clips with deeper explanations, as well as relevant advertising around the products, services and ingredients used in the TV show.

Time-synchronise the second screen

Use the CMS to synchronise website layout changes and content on the front page to promote TV shows that are about to air. In addition, prepare promotional materials on the website that are timely and immediately relevant to viewers, such as a web clip interview with the person who just got “voted off the island” in the currently airing TV programme.

Use the second screen as a social tool

With the CMS as the content hub, use the second screen to tweet or blog about things happening on the current TV show, with connectivity to the website for comments, likes and other social linkages. Relevant content that is synched with broadcast material is more likely to get linked, liked, tweeted and re-tweeted. Social engagement is very much about becoming and participating in the topic of conversation, not about owning the dialogue. The CMS can help turn the website into the conduit for this conversation, which can help to foster greater community feedback and increased brand engagement around the broadcaster’s content.

Use technologies to launch apps and clips on your first screen from your second screen

There is an emerging standard called DIAL, which stands for “Discovery and Launch.” DIAL represents an initiative to launch content from your second screen onto your first screen. Companies like NetFlix, Google (YouTube), Sony and the BBC are working on this standard today, which may someday make the notions of first- and second-screens irrelevant. With DIAL, an application on our smartphone will automatically discover that there is a device with a compatible app connected to our TV. It will fire up the app and the two apps will work together. Dial will also allow us to launch web apps on our compatible TV and even add new functionality to our connected devices.

A Powerful Advertising Opportunity

Technologies like DIAL may soon eclipse – or redefine – the concept of social TV, and industry analysts are watching these trends closely. Whatever happens, the big winners here will be the media companies and their advertisers, who are poised to take advantage of the opportunities created by these multi-screen, always-on audience experiences.

Always-on relationships give broadcasters the ability leverage viewer preferences and behaviours to create programming that resonates with audiences and ensures engagement before the programming actually airs. Advertisers, therefore, gain confidence that their ad content will appeal to target audiences and will hopefully extend reach beyond a single programme.

Here’s another bonus; By building and reinforcing this personal relationship between us viewers and the programmes we are watching and chatting about, broadcasters will be able to encourage us to watch their programming live and in real-time. As a result, we will be less likely to fast-forward through the advertising messages as we often do now when we’ve DVR’ed a programme.

For content providers, the always-on experience helps to drive revenue opportunities. As Gartner points out, “Creating an attractive social ecosystem can enhance the TV viewing experience, which can bring consumers back to enjoying TV shows.”

Multi-screening enables a new shared experience around real-time content. “The result will be to connect diverse fan bases, create wider discussion forums,” states Gartner, “and ultimately, drive new revenue streams based on greater real-time viewing and stronger consumer ties to content.”

Once again, the media company’s CMS is the foundation upon which this bond between content, consumers, channels and advertisers can be built. The CMS manages the content. It manages the integration between web, tablet, mobile, and TV. It can manage the preferences of content consumers. It can also manage the display of relevant advertising content on each device. And, in some cases, it can target the delivery of advertising to specific consumers or audience segments.

Thinking Responsively

Of course, all the benefits of working in – and managing – a multi-screen world can disappear in an instant if a media company must employ more and more staff members to prepare content for all these different devices. This is where responsive web design comes into play, and becomes another critical component of the multi-channel CMS platform.

In simple terms, responsive design is a website development technique for creating web pages that dynamically adapt to any screen size and orientation. For widescreen desktop and laptop monitors, responsively designed web pages expand to fill the entire screen. For mobile phones and tablet devices, the pages automatically adapt to these smaller screen sizes.

For broadcasters, a CMS that supports responsive design is an enabler for both complementary and multi-tasking usage, because it gives media companies the ability to supply audiences with contextually relevant content that displays well on all digital devices.  And, that helps to build engagement, loyalty, and brand equity.

In an always-on world, the most successful broadcasters are those that can take us on a journey, driving us between media channels throughout the day, delivering relevant and responsive content based on our needs, our behaviours, our context, and our engagement histories. 


  • “Gartner Market Insight: Leverage Social TV Experiences to Drive Consumers to Engage in Content and Develop Loyalty,” June 2012 by Michael Gartenberg and Mikako Kitagawa
  • “The New Multi-screen World: Understanding Cross-platform Consumer Behavior,” August 2012 by Google
  • “Practical Innovation at Chaines Tele Astral: Growing a Digital Media Business with Content Management Strategies and Technologies,” May 2012 by Mary LaPlante and Bill Trippe, Outsell Inc.

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