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SocialTV Summit

November 16, 2011
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I am attending the SocialTV Summit in NYC today.

Social TV is a generic term that describes solutions for social interaction related to live or pre-recorded television. The idea of Social TV is one I first heard about 4 or 5 years ago from my friend Marie-Jose Montpetit who has been researching the implications at MIT for quite some time. I have been tracking this area since Marie first mentioned it to me, but as she just mentioned at the conference, it really started taking off with the introduction of the iPad.

As some may know, I’m not a fan of conferences generally, especially ones that cost a lot that I can’t get into for free. But I have to admit that I am enjoying this one and actually paying attention. Here’s why.

It’s clear this is still an early market, and perhaps most of the world’s ecosystem for Social TV is in attendance. Though one presenter estimated 2011 revenues on the $150-200M range, it’s hard to see whose taking a big chunk of that dough, other than Twitter and maybe Facebook. Most of the companies presenting today showed one of two business models – (1) a TV companion service table or web app that automatically figures out what you are watching and provides additional content and ability to interact (i.e. tweet with others watching at the same content live or delayed) – allowing brands to advertise, or (2) a TV analytics platform, that aggregates and reconciles trending feeds about TV (i.e. the Twitter feed or public Facebook posts) to help brands understand where to advertise.

I have to admit that I’m a fan of the two screen experience, but maybe it’s because I have ADD. Will there be a single platform that becomes the SocialTV companion app? It would stand to reason, but it’s not clear there is a leading contender right now, and I think it’s because there’s very little differentiation (and utility). Right now the real SocialTV companion is obviously Twitter. Maybe it continues to be?

What about the analytics piece? Clearly analytics and metrics are the foundation for advertising, and as TV evolves, it’s reasonable to expect that like other Internet platforms, advertising will change as well. Personally, I don’t think we’re going to see a separate Social TV advertising network or analytics platform for long. The major players online and in mobile already have the sector in their sites, and if the Social TV sector takes a while to take off, it will likely be harder for a distinct advertising solution to take flight.

Characteristic of an early hot and hyped market, there appears to be far more venture money invested than revenue. That will change, but I fear that many (most) of the companies that I saw today wont be around to see it. But I’m sure there will be plenty of unique opportunities around the sector to provide great investment opportunities, which is why I’m spending time to continue my education.

It’s rare to see sectors in the early stages of formation, and I’m pretty sure this is one of those times. Television, unlike traditional newspapers, is not going away. But it needs to change, and I think Social TV is the right evolutionary stage. I’m encouraged that the old will have to meld with the new world, because innovation will come from startups.

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