Taking Back Social TV

Taking Back Social TV

The term “Social TV” has been around for years.   According to Google “Social TV refers to technologies surrounding television that promote communication and social interaction related to program content.”  Wikipedia states, “Social television is the union of television and social media”.

In reality, it’s a term that has been misused, mishandled and misapplied. I think that it is time the industry got its collective hands around what exactly Social TV is.   But first, we need to acknowledge it’s troubled history, which according to Wikipedia includes such offerings as:

  • Having a host or celebrity in an “Orange (or other color) Room” tell you what is trending on Twitter right now.
  • Voting for the performer you like via text on American Idol
  • Showing a Facebook page showing what people “like” at the moment.
  • A side-bar showing moderated live tweets on the air

For the most part, it seems social TV has come to be defined as little more than a connection between what people are watching and what they “like” on Facebook, Tweet on Twitter or apply a hashtag to . This most interactive this iteration of social TV gets is when a program uses a graphic to display social media posts in real-time. In reality, that’s hardly an advance over the decade or older practice of airing text messages alongside music videos.

Is that what today’s audience, who live in a world that is actually social, want?

None of those are social. They are commentary, perhaps even falling into the category of social reporting.  That is not Social Television.   The only companies profiting (or getting promoted) in those scenarios are social media platforms, not the content providers producing the shows.

Maybe we can help make sense of this? According to Merriam-Webster, social is defined as “relating to or involving activities in which people spend time talking to each other or doing enjoyable things with each other.” With that in mind, I would propose that:

  • Social TV happens when thousands of people are interacting directly, in real-time, with the player of a live video game on Twitch.
  • Social TV is also what happens when fans appear on screen and actually engage in conversation with sports commentators and players, such as what we saw last year at KUSA.
  • And, Social TV happens when celebrities, an engaging host, and enthusiastic gossipers gather via Skype, Facebook Live, Google, Gruveo, from wherever they are, using whatever device is handy, to discuss fashion, relationships, and behind the scenes drama.

It’s time to stop abusing Social TV. It has a real meaning and is only now becoming a reality.