The 2012 Summer Olympics was the most watched TV event in history (see this article in the Huffington Post). What made this year’s Olympics so successful? Social Media.
The impact of Social Media on the Olympics shows how much television viewing has evolved in just a couple of years. We used to sit back and “watch” – the couch potato experience. Today people used a second screen to engage with athletes, broadcasters, and friends while watching the Games – the social junkie experience.
It’s simple: how can you resist flipping on the television when you see something like this come across your newsfeed? OMG! #MrBean is running on the beach in Chariots of Fire! #Olympics (By the way, the opening ceremony inspired over 9 million tweets.)
Despite complaints about NBC’s coverage across social platforms (as exhibited by the popular hashtag #NBCFail), online comments by Olympic athletes and average viewers resulted in a type of engagement around the games never seen before. One post by Michael Phelps was retweeted over 14,000 times!
Here are some illuminating stats from Bluefin Labs:
- The Olympics completely dominated the primetime social TV conversation.
- Over the 17 days of the Games between the hours of 7pm and midnight, 99% of all social TV buzz was attributed to primetime Olympics telecasts.
In total, there were more than 82M comments on Twitter and public Facebook about the Olympics from July 27 through Aug 12.
My take: Social Media is the secret sauce that is going to generate new revenue streams into the TV industry. At the same time, it will accelerate the consolidation that has already started in this market, which has too many small players. As larger players such as studios, networks, TV platform providers, device manufacturers, and the like, become more aware of the potential of Social TV to engage further with consumers and grow revenue, they will acquire the innovation from the outside that will help them do that quickly.
To “shazam” a song has become as much of a popular expression in the music sphere as “to google” directions on a map in the search world. I have been “shazaming” the Olympics on my TV since they started in late July, and the results have been interesting, especially as seen through the lens of the Social TV ecosystem. Through a deal Shazam signed with Olympics broadcaster NBC, U.S. viewers can use the Shazam app on their smartphone to access additional info such as extra content on athletes, updated info on event results, and medal count. They can also share on Twitter and Facebook. Below is a screen shot of what the Shazam Olympic app looks like on my iphone:
The basic job of quickly recognizing that I was watching the Olympics was done flawlessly, although I wish it had taken me directly to the event I was watching rather than the general “Tag” page showed above. The menu on that page was intuitive and well-designed, but the “Watch Live Video” option linked to the NBC app, which had to be downloaded and then did not work well. Tighter integration between Shazam and its content partner to instantly launch videos from the Shazam app would enhance the viewer experience. Also, I shazamed an ad at one point, it did take me to additional content related to the ad – but it was in Turkish! In other words, the system did not receive information about my geo location.
(Note: My comments above are based on randomly watching various Olympic events, on different days and at different times in the U.S. Pacific time zone.)
There is still room for improvement, but “you need to walk before you run” and Shazam is definitely “power-walking.” Try it: download the Shazam app on your phone (it’s available for iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Mobile), point it to the TV while the Olympics are on, hit the Shazam icon and voila! Check out the results.
For those who don’t already know Shazam, it’s a London-based company that launched a music recognition service in 2002. It became the 10th most downloaded app in the iTunes store and currently has 200M users around the world (70% in the U.S.). The app can identify whatever piece of music you are listening to, in whatever context. Say you hear a song you like while having a drink in a bar, or on the car radio while cruising, or on your couch watching a TV show; pick up your smartphone, hit the Shazam icon, and the name of the song comes up with the option to buy/download it. Very cool service, I have been using it for years and I can’t remember it ever failing me, even in super-noisy environments such as crowded bars.
I met with Shazam CEO Andrew Fisher in London in late June, a few weeks before the Olympics started. We discussed his vision for pivoting the business – from solely recognizing music to also recognizing TV content. Building on its music recognition algorithms, Shazam has been developing Automatic Content Recognition (ACR) technology to listen to and identify what viewers are watching on TV and serve them more information about the program or the featured ads. Fisher says that a recently updated version of their product can recognize TV shows in less than one second.
Shazam launched its TV-oriented service last year and since then has Shazam-enabled various mass audience TV events in the U.S., such as:
• The Super Bowl 2012: During the game viewers could get up-to-the-minute stats on both teams. The halftime show was also “shazamable” – during Madonna’s performance, “Shazamers” could get a set list and a free LMFAO remix of Madonna’s latest single. The app also covered the REAL Super Bowl attraction – the ads. About a quarter of Super Bowl ads were Shazam-enabled, meaning that when viewers shazamed the ad being showed on TV, they were taken to additional second screen content. The best, in my view, was this video synched to the Pepsi commercial. Watch it, it’s funny:
• The 54th Annual Grammy Awards: Shazaming the show gave viewers additional information (on a second screen) around the night’s nominees and performers. One of the night’s most popular features was a contest for viewers to win tickets to attend next year’s awards.
My view is that Shazam’s main asset is its existing 200M-strong user base. That represents an enormous potential to reach new audiences for studios, networks, brands, handset and TV manufacturers, app platforms, wireless carriers, etc. Based on recent discussions with execs at U.S. studios and networks (an industry that has been ambivalent about embracing new digital technologies because of the inherent security risk around digital access to content and the disruption these technologies could cause to the content providers’ existing revenue model) there is a growing awareness that to capture younger audiences they will have to increasingly play with digital trail-blazers, like Shazam. Same for brands – if they want to sell products targeted at the “digitally-fluent” they will have to serve their ads where these eyeballs are. As for CE manufacturers, adding ACR to their devices would enable new revenue streams beyond the single sale of a device.
Another strength of Shazam: it is well funded (received $32M in 2011, see my earlier blog about Social TV funding) and the lead in the latest round was Kleiner Perkins (KPCB), Silicon Valley’s top VC firm, who has backed some high profile winners in the past – such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, Zynga, etc. This should enable Shazam to finance further development in the U.S. market, where the window of opportunities to partner which content providers and other TV industry players is now.
It’s interesting to see that despite the lively ecosystem around “everything social” funding activity in Social TV — the intersection between social networks and TV viewing – is still limited. Only a handful of investors have several portfolio companies in that space.
However, that limited activity is counterbalanced by the fact that “smart money” – such as Google Ventures, Khosla, Kleiner Perkins, Intel Capital etc. – got involved early. Always a good sign.
Below is my latest roundup of the most active investors in Social TV, either by the amount they invested or the number of deals they made.
In May I posted a blog entitled Facebook and Social TV – In Stealth Mode?. I felt that it was odd that Facebook, which has shown it can move fast in other domains, had yet to position itself as a key player in Social TV. Facebook has so far let Twitter be the driver of social conversation around TV shows and except for integration with second screen applications such as Get Glue and Miso, it has not really staked a claim in the growing ecosystem that is Social TV.
Oddly enough, Facebook’s leadership position in social networking has not yet translated into formulating a coherent strategy around the other two fastest growing tech segments: mobile networking and socially-enabled TV. The fact that it has signed a couple of deals with CNN and NBC recently to facilitate social conversations around the US Elections and the Summer Olympics respectively, is a sign that Facebook is conscious that there are opportunities in Social TV, but it is amazing that it has yet to fully leverage its 900M user base to derive new revenue from the large overlap between that user base and the mass TV audience.
Facebook could be the platform around which audiences engage with TV programming – thus enabling Facebook to generate significant additional advertising revenue from brands that are looking for more-trackable campaigns around TV shows than the ones currently provided by broadcasters.
Yet Facebook’s cautious steps in the Social TV space so far indicate that, as in the mobile space, Facebook may still be in the process of defining its vision.
Back in March, I posted an infographic that illustrated the complexity of the Social TV ecosystem at that time. A mere three months later the landscape has changed: some companies have been snatched up by larger ones and new players have emerged on the scene.
Below is an updated version of our earlier graphic and my take on the current landscape of the Social TV ecosystem:
New categories and companies have appeared, others have disappeared. The market is moving on. (Note: Lost Remote does a good job of keeping track of the comings and goings of Social TV companies, it’s the most up-to-date directory I have found so far.)
This infographic is not meant to be a comprehensive list but instead my view of the most relevant and interesting players in the complex puzzle that is Social TV today.
I ran into a couple of interesting infographics last week:
Facebook’s IPO at the top of the news, here is a cool graphical representation of some key Facebook stats including:
User Penetration by Region
Age of Officers (and even compensation levels)
These numbers were officially disclosed as part of Facebook’s original IPO filing in early May and it’s so much more eye opening to see them displayed in graphical form. One more proof that “a picture is worth a thousand words.”
In the past few months, I’ve posted several blogs that contain lists and graphs of the biggest and most important players in the Social TV sphere. A notable exception in all these lists has been Facebook, which has been surprisingly quiet so far. Aside from touting “frictionless sharing” on platforms such as Hulu and the desire to bring the “stickiness” of Facebook to TV watching, Facebook has remained on the sidelines.
However, in a recent article in Lost Remote, Kay Madati, head of Entertainment Strategy at Facebook says that the company has been talking with content developers and spending “a lot of time with television networks, movie studios and producers in Hollywood.” Talking is good, but this market is evolving fast.
It is odd that Facebook, which has shown that it can move fast in other domains, has yet to position itself as a key player in an ecosystem that evolved from the social networking trend started by the company itself.
Funny how the Social TV space attracts all types of investors – from movie stars (Ashton Kutcher) and sports celebrities (Marc Cuban) to Silicon Valley smart money (Kleiner Perkins) and the expected media giants.
After having reviewed VC funding in a previous post, below is my take on the most interesting Social TV activity by big media players – from TV networks and Hollywood studios to cable companies.
Twitter and Google are also included in this review. They are not media companies per se, yet their business has a big impact on the media world.
According to patents filings, Comcast is developing technology that would allow them to notify subscribers when their friends begin watching a particular TV show or movie, and reward customers with discounts on their cable bills when a program they recommend is viewed by another subscriber
We’re flooded with news in the Social TV space – but most of it is noise. Separating the wheat from the chaff, here is my selection of interesting news from the week of April 30, 2012, and why:
Gary Lauder and Mark Cuban Invest in Flingo
Both angels have a track record of smart investments. Interesting validation of Flingo’s technology and business model, on the heels of recent $7M funding by VC firm August Capital investment (as reported in my blog, Who’s Funding Who?)
Oxygen Channel Launches Oxygen Connect, a New Social TV Platform
Oxygen is taking Social TV into its own hands, driving viewers to engage on the network’s own second screen app, Oxygen Connect (launching May 18), rather than competing with other programming on apps such as GetGlue and Miso.
Automatic Content Recognition (ACR) is the key to delivering social experiences around TV and monetizing them because it automatically recognizes and tracks what viewers are watching. There are various flavors of ACR, developed by various companies (see my previous post on the Social TV Ecosystem). Most second screen apps now integrate some type of ACR, the one integrated by TVplus comes from Audible Magic.
We received more information about yet more funding activity following our latest blog about Social TV funding (Social TV: Who’s Funding Who?). Below is a table updating deals in that space. Overall, the deals are still small in size – as articles in All Things Digital and Lost Remote pointed out. But the flurry of activity and the kind of investors involved – smart money and corporate venture types– indicate that buzz is building.
We will keep updating our list as more funding news is released. Do keep suggestions and comments coming.