Last week found us down at the Soho Hotel exploring all things TV and mobile, from the different ways people can watch TV on mobile devices – including laptops - to how viewers are using broadcast TV with mobile, to chat, play, control and even respond directly to TV ads. From a morning packed to the gunwales with new TVoD commercial formats, iPads, smart phones, 2-screening synchronicity, image recognition and social TV apps, here are 5 things we learned:
TV’ and ‘the TV’
The word ‘TV’ in this statement is one worth emphasising here. At our event Tess Alps made the distinction between TV (content) and ‘the TV’ (the set). TV is that stuff we love, that we watch, that we share and talk about – and most of the time we like watching it on “the TV”. But the wonderful thing about new technologies – and the broadcasters’ investment in creating and delivering premium quality content to them and via them – is that TV now has new homes too. Watching ‘TV’ on the tablet, the laptop or the smartphone is completely natural and normal to most of us.
TV broadcasters have ‘got’ mobile. Mobile TV viewing presents a whole new part of the day for them to colonise. Not only are broadcasters enabling viewers to get the quality, premium TV they want across numerous platforms and on a variety of devices, they are also helping advertisers follow this relationship in all sorts of ways; from new clickable pre-roll formats to gamification. There really are a lot of great things going on.
Social is hygiene now’
This is a phrase from the magnificent Peter Sells from BBH. His point about social media is, I think, that we should probably stop getting quite so breathless about it now. It is pretty well established and any media experience that doesn’t have some flavour of mediated or unmediated social activity on its periphery is odd.
TV and social media is a much talked of topic at the moment – “hot” even – and of course, people chat and text and tweet and Facebook each other about the thing they see on TV. All very welcome. But to all those companies developing apps that aim to facilitate these conversations we heard the caveat that nothing should get in the way of the core TV experience. Deepen but don’t distract. That is what we’re there for and everything else is another layer that adds to TV’s enjoyment. Ease of use will prove key to the success of any curated social adjuncts to TV.
As Peter says: “it’s not about people watching connected TV, it’s about connected people watching TV”. Another phrase I wish I’d thought of.
Technologists can overestimate the impact of technology
We had a great presentation from Zeebox’s Anthony Rose, who showed us his beautifully designed social TV app, one that also helps you find out more about the things you’re watching with passive links (zeetags) popping up instantly as you watch without any need to swing your phone or hold it up to the TV screen.
This is all exciting stuff and, for those who wish to, commenting about, or interacting with content and ads will become easier and more intuitive in the coming years, particularly around certain show genres. However, when Anthony suggested that ‘ad breaks are not called ad-breaks, but are now called tweet breaks’, I would suggest that he was rather over-egging his pudding and that we need to balance our collective excitement with some perspective. Temper our thrusting young ying with some experienced and wise yang. Tweeting in ad breaks is by no means a universal behaviour. As Chris Arnold has pointed out elsewhere in the Brand Republic labyrinth, 50% of Tweets come from 0.5% of Twitter users, 24% have no followers, 97% have less than 100 followers, only 1.53% of conversations are 3 levels deep, 36% of Twitter users are 25-34, 27% are 35-44, and only 3% are under 18.
The ad break remains very much the ad break – we’re watching more ads at normal speed than ever before, remember. And let’s also remember that it is TV’s horse driving Twitter’s cart, not the other way round.
Channel brands will be even more important as TV get more complicated
Anthony Rose rightly pointed out the future importance of ‘trusted authorities’ for TV. With more and more ways to watch and interact with TV, we need anchors and navigation points we understand to cut through the choice (plus for every uber-connected, personalised app-meister there are probably a hundred less proactive and more indecisive TV viewers who are content with their natural human inertia and welcome a trusted place to start).
Incidentally, the TV company websites, rich in Channel brands, are talking of record TVoD streams in the latest quarter (most of it with clickable advertising).
TV ads are going to be even better value thanks to technologies like Zeebox
Zeebox – and no doubt its future competitors – has the potential to enable viewers to buy what they’re watching. Like Steve MacDonald’s shoes? A few clicks (or ‘taps’, I suppose, on a touchscreen) and they’re yours. Fancy some of that yoghurt in the ad? You are seconds away from dropping some into your online supermarket basket.
It seems clear to me that this is a new layer of value being added to both TV content and spot advertising. The most obvious people who will make the new money out of this are the likes of Amazon and the online high street, and probably Zeebox and its ilk too. However I believe that advertisers and agencies will recognise that this new value wouldn’t exist without the TV advertising that has catalysed it, and as a result they will buy more TV ads – and maybe pay more for them too.