I agree with GigaOm in their recent article that Social TV is dead. The warning signs have been around for a while – it was ‘a solution without a problem’ and it was just too complex an ecosystem (as illustrated in a previous blog).
Another trend is starting to emerge. I call it “back to the first screen.” I noticed at CES last month how conversations were shifting from “the potential of the second screen” to “how can we bring viewers back to the first screen?” In other words, we need to figure out how to bring Facebook timelines, Twitter feeds, NFL.com for player stats, etc — all to the main television screen, without disrupting the TV program.
One of the CES announcements by TV market leader Samsung showed that the Back-to-the-First-Screen movement is underway. Many missed the announcement of the Multi-Link screen because it was shadowed by Samsung’s glittery new curved TV. But it was a step in that direction- albeit not the most innovative (or elegant) way to bring on-screen multitasking for TV viewers.
Amidst all the tumult and the announcements, a little startup in the CES area reserved for startups (called Eureka Park) began getting a lot of attention. The company is called SeeSpace and I know it well because I helped the founders Nam Do and Dale Herigstad get it off the ground. While working with them I became so impressed with their project that I actually joined the founding team.
At CES 2014 SeeSpace launched its product, called InAir, a small HDMI pass-through device that combines slick UI design with ACR technology to serve related Internet content overlaid on the main TV screen. Finally, a way to use the web and watch television without juggling the second screen. The press who covered the inAiR launch called it “a Minority Report” – style interface.
I spent most of my 5 days at CES in the SeeSpace booth and two things struck me:
1. The Snowball Effect: Every day the number of people who came to see the demo increased until there was actually a crowd around the booth. Word was getting around that “something cool is happening at SeeSpace” (as one TV executive put it) and attendees were telling other attendees to stop by and check it out.
2. The Wide Spectrum of Interest: The folks rushing over to see the demo ranged from corporate execs on their scouting missions to individual geeks just looking for cool stuff. The corporate types came in waves and it became an amusing pattern. First came the advance reconnaissance troops. Then, the lieutenants (i.e. product VP’s). Next, the generals (i.e., Sr. VP’s) always accompanied by their entourages. All were thoughtfully watching the demos and pondering whether this was the answer to the question “How can we bring viewers back to the first screen?”
What was even more amazing was the fact that the SeeSpace Kickstarter campaign that launched on second day of the show blasted out of the starting gate garnering $30k in backing in 3 days. This was a clincher…people backing a HW product that is 1) still in prototype stage and 2) displaces many established ways of doing things…to me that meant that early adopters (the toughest crowd to please) see market value, and that’s a good sign that a new ecosystem is finally emerging around a new TV-watching paradigm.