Social TV 101- The Apps, Tools and Blogs You Need to Know



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Social TV is an ongoing series by Elspeth “Ellie” Rountree that will focus on trends and topics within the industry.

Listed by MIT’s Technology Review as one of the top ten emerging technologies, Social TV has proven it’s relevance as one of the most talked about, and perhaps most promising, topics in the not only the tech industry, but also marketing, television and social networking spheres of 2011.

But what does “Social TV” mean, exactly?  By most, it’s described as interacting with friends or networks while watching TV. There are three distinct categories under the social television umbrella- using a second screen (such as an iPad, tablet, or smartphone), an on-screen experience (information displayed directly within the TV) or through using a personal computer.  These devices aren’t necessarily pure social tools, but they facilitate social interaction revolved around one thing, television programming.

Because the market is quickly adapting to the high demand for more streamlined Social TV tools, there’s been a plethora of new apps and innovation.  Here’s a round-up of the most popular ones that are being used and tested in the industry.

Social TV Networks and Second Screen Experiences

IntoNow– The Shazam of television, this app developed by Yahoo uses sound recognition technology to not only detect which show you’re watching, but can also pinpoint the exact episode of shows from 5 years ago or less.  You can share thoughts and show information directly though the app using Facebook and Twitter.   (via mobile app)

BeeTV– After raising $8 million in funding two years ago, this Israeli company offers tools to share television viewing experiences (such as real-time clips) with online friends. (via Web and iPad app)

GetGlue– Think of this as Foursquare of the television world- users can “check” into a show earning points (and actual awards in the form of stickers) while recommending friends to TV content web and smartphone. (via Web and iPad app)

Tunerfish– Another Foursquare-esq application, Tunerfish allows you to not only check into television shows, but also web series and movies as well.  (via Web and iPad app)

Miso– Released shortly before Tunerfish, Miso offers tools for check-ins to shows, specific recommendations based on prior viewing habits, chatter around a specific show and direct messaging.  (via Web and iPad app)

SnappyTV– An iPhone exclusive app that has a built in clipping function for editing and sharing videos from live TV.  While watching television shows on networks like Fox (that have a partnership with SnappyTV), simply hit “snap” and it captures the clip you just saw, making it available for sharing via Facebook and Twitter.  (via Web and iPad app)

External Social TV Devices

Xbox 360/Live– Debuted in 2002, Xbox offers free content and applications that seamlessly work with a wireless internet connection.  Perks such as Netflix compatibility, group viewing/gaming and exclusive content have continually put Xbox ahead of the game.  As mentioned by Dennis Durkin, Microsoft’s COO and CFO for interactive entertainment, they want to give you a reason to turn on the device every day.

Boxee– A partially open-sourced freeware based box-top set, this media player not only looks sleek but also has a solid user interface to match.  The box has a built in social networking component that allows for personal locally stored media to be streamed via the television as well as other traditional sourced internet streaming content such as Flickr, Netflix, Hulu, etc.  Users can make their own apps and plug-ins, if you’re so inclined.

Apple TV– Originally released in 2007, the Apple TV seamlessly combines streaming videos, photos and other media from the web in HD to televisions.  It offers many features including Netflix, Youtube and Vimeo streaming and also syncs with applications such as personal iTunes libraries, giving the user different ways of accessing personal media from other synchronizable connected devices.

Google TV– Developed by Intel, Sony, Logitech and Google, the box uses Google’s Android OS to try and create an interactive television experience with online video providers such as Hulu.  The set has been received with lackluster reviews because the interface isn’t easy for beginners to use.  Many television companies have gone so far as to blacklist the devices, making some content inaccessible.

Tivo– One of the most popular set-top DVRs on the market, Tivo was the first external device of it’s kind to offer across the board access to broadband content from outside sources such as Amazon and Blockbuster.

Roku– A simple and cost effective streaming device, the wireless set is known for it’s ease of use and simple set up and is mainly used for streaming Netflix but also offers Facebook compatibility.  In July 2011, Roku released a new model that allows for motion gaming.  Unfortunately, the newer models still don’t allow for streaming content from local media servers or shares, as some external devices (like Boxee) such as this do.

Social TV Analytics

Bluefin Signals– Started out of MIT’s Media Lab, it uses a unique analytics dashboard that looks at television on a frame by frame basis across the country making sense of specific social media data at any given time, using a 10-point exponential scale.

TrendrrTV– As a real-time social media tracking tool, their focus is on anticipating what sort of buzz a specific show will have before airing, and also during a broadcast.  Their search function makes sifting through multitudes of information easier than ever before.

Nielsen– The most well known industry standard for estimating viewers of a specific show, Nielsen is also trying to measure cross-platform useage by, “pursuing on-device meter panels to record every interaction users have with measurable mobile devices, which complement our robust survey data.”.  It looks as though they have a long way to go in comparison to other social television metric companies.

Blogs to Follow
MIT Review

The Wall Blog UK

Mashable Social TV


Play the TV

Connected TV

Nielsen Wire

Elspeth Rountree is a consultant for a variety of multi-national companies focusing on social television strategy and is also a contributor for the Social Media Week Global Editorial Team- both based in New York, NY.

Follow her on Twitter @elspethjane or Tumblr

Interested in joining the Social Media Week Global Editorial Team? Apply here!


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