June 6, 2012

‘Social TV’ just got a whole new meaning with Stevie

Ayelet NoffDo you “check in” to shows while you’re watching them? Does that make your TV watching experience social enough for ya? Well, sorry to disappoint, but that thing you’re doing whenever you watch TV and check in to a show is going to have to be called something else, because social TV is quickly evolving to a different type of activity altogether, more fitting of that name.

Social TV, right now, is simply a name for sharing with your connections across social media networks what you’re watching. That’s cool, but the social elements of it are kind of scarce – you tell people and you might get a sticker or badge for the effort. That’s not a two-way street, like social platforms should be. Discussing your TV viewing experience is mostly like Foursquare for TV shows.

Ryan Gosling

So what really is social TV? Let’s stick with the Foursquare metaphor for a bit. Think about a location-based service that, instead of telling other people where you are, creates places for you to be according to what your social connections share. That pub you just walked into is inspired by a tweet your friend made and the bartender just happens to be Ryan Gosling(because you like him on Facebook), the music playing is a song your boyfriend posted on your wall, and almost all the people there are your social connections.

While that would be awesome, there isn’t a location based service that does this yet. However, there is a social TV platform that does the same for all these check-in based wannabe social television platforms. I’m talking about a social TV platform that instead of helping you tell everyone what you’re watching, creates a television station you can watch completely made out of your social graph, tailored for you by your friends and connections, created by your social feeds and broadcast right to your browser.

Stevie TV: Content related to your friends’ top topics

This social TV station is called Stevie, and it has all you need in a station. The Stevie TV schedule is made up of various shows, each composed of content related to a specific topic from your friends and connections and popular among users across the Web. The shows run in a loop, and there are six of them, each more fun than the next.

The schedule starts with “Top Stories,” which shows you several top posts from your connections. “Fresh Picks” shows you new and exciting content and videos from friends and hot events coming up. “The Comedy Strip” is like a comedy central featuring friends and funny tweeps around the Web. “New Albums” features a photo album recently added by a friend. “Music Non Stop” features music you like, music your friends like and music your friends posted. Celeb TV is a gossip show that covers only the celebrities you like. Most of the shows also feature a real-time crawl of the latest and greatest general posts from your social network, and you can use “Stevie on Demand” to watch whatever show you want when you want it.

Most of the shows feature a news channel-style layout, in which you see a video in the middle (according to the theme of the show), a crawl at the bottom usually featuring content from connections and power users and a box on the side featuring what’s next or interesting information about your friends. For example, in “Music Non Stop” you see musicians your friends like.

So what does this mean for the future of social TV, or of any specialized social market? When will we see services create new experiences out of social graphs rather than amplify existing ones? Though hologram and robotics technology is still a ways away from being able to create my vision of the “Foursquare of the future,” services already exist that create radio and music stations according to your social profiles. Stevie is just the next step to a custom-made world.

Now to just get this Ryan Gosling shaped bartending robot and my life will be complete.

May 27, 2011

BeeTV goes beyond the check-in and socializes TV viewing

Ayelet NoffBeeTV, the app that turns everyday TV watching into a social experience and lets users share their favorite TV moments with friends and others in real time, has just recently announced the launch of their new free iPad application, now available in the iTunes store. You can use BeeTV on your iPad or on the Web on BeeTV’s site. iPhone and Android devices are planned soon.

It’s no coincidence that the most watched television event in history — this year’s Super Bowl with over 162 million viewers — was also the most tweeted event ever: 4,000 tweets per second when the game ended. TV moments are meant to be shared. And it doesn’t matter if it’s the “Big Brother” finale, the latest episode of “CSI” or a hilarious moment from “The Hangover,” we all know that it’s just not the same when you’re watching TV alone. With BeeTV you can share your favorite TV moments with friends and others in real time, as the action unfolds, so that even when you’re by yourself you’re not watching alone. (Disclosure: BeeTV is a client.)

BeeTV connects your TV viewing experience through tablets, the web (and soon iO/S and Android mobile phones), social networks, fan sites, information — in fact, to just about everyone and anything that is related to TV shows and content. With BeeTV, you can experience TV the way it was meant to be: together. Continue reading

July 14, 2009

The future of television: Social TV

JP Rangaswami

JD LasicaBehind closed doors in offices from the media centers of New York to the entertainment capital of Hollywood, content programmers and code jockeys are no doubt trying to figure out how to marry traditional television with social networking.

Does the lean-forward experience, interactivity and backchannel chatter of social networks have a place in the tightly controlled, lean-back world of television? I’m among those who believe the two will wed in a satisfying way, though we’re likely five to 10 years from that happening. I blogged about Intel and Yahoo’s experiments with the Cinematic Internet (or Widget Channel TV) last year, and I’ve written over the years about the largely discredited experiments with “interactive television.”

But a week ago today, in the corporate offices of BT in London, the Traveling Geeks were treated to a 10-minute presentation by Tanya Goldhaber, a graduate student at MIT just finishing up an eight-week internship at BT, about “Social TV.” We were so intrigued that we kept tossing questions to her well after her allotted time.

Peer-influenced viewership

Image representing Boxee as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

As audiences continue to fragment, as more of us multitask with laptops on our laps while we’re watching TV, as the major social networks continue to amass millions of more members each week, and as the Internet finally comes to our living rooms with a new generation of devices like Boxee, it’s only a matter of time before television becomes social.

Goldhaber showed some screenshots of what a prototype social TV screen might look like. (Prototypes I’ve seen at the Intel Developers Network and at LinkTV a few months ago take it in similar if somewhat different directions.)

I suspect most of us don’t want to see a CNN-like crawl of our friends’ comments at the bottom of our prime-time programming. But I certainly would like to know if my friends were enthralled by a one-time PBS special, or if DirecTV was televising the ninth inning of a no-hit game, or if one of my friends was interviewed by a news crew.

Goldhaber noted that today’s Electronic Program Guides are all but impossible to navigate, and she cited studies that people would rather get viewing recommendations from a friend than from a computer. In survey of TV viewers, 37% of respondents said they started watching their favorite TV show because of a friend’s recommendation or word of mouth.

I asked Goldhaber if, a few years out, social networks might lead to “swarming behavior” among TV viewers, causing quick spikes in viewership for little-known niche programs based on social influencers’ actions. Certainly possible, she said.

I’d be intrigued by a system that automatically feeds me information about what my friends are collectively watching, instead of having to wait for them to tell me through a kind of tweet burst. And I’d also be interested by a peer, or friend of friends, recommendation system that elevates obscure but high-quality independent Web programs.

Social TV could reshape the television landscape — which is why you’ll never see the major networks lead this transformation. Like Napster and Apple in the music industry, the innovation will come from the bottom up, well outside of the media and entertainment industries.

BT and open source

I’ll be honest: Before I visited the UK, I assumed that BT was Britain’s version of AT&T: monolithic, imposing, not terribly open to innovation. An evening of conversations and an afternoon of presentations at BT has disabused me of that notion.

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