Social TV: "Third Social Screen"

@Tim | Social

As we continue to monitor the evolution of Social TV, one of the foremost leaders in the space Informitv, highlighted the potential growth of in-home net connected TV’s today.  Some of the figures to keep an eye on are also contained in this report from IMS Research on Market Opportunites for Internet Video to the TV

– Estimated 473 million households able to view internet video on their television by 2015
– Media center costs are expected to fall as much as 15% annually during the next five years
– Retail set-top boxes, Blu-ray players with IP connectivity and proprietary Internet TV devices to pass $1 billion worldwide by the end of 2010

The growth of Social TV will quickly transform this longstanding advertising medium into the “Third Social Screen (web, mobile, TV).”  In a sense, TV has been socially connected since the initial release of the Xbox back in 2001. While the “Third Social Screen” is currently limited in functionality and still a bit awkward for the user, new devices such as, Internet ready Blueray players, Internet ready TVs, Full QWERTY remotes and the highly anticipated release of the Boxee Box last week at CES are paving the way for innovation.  We can also expect to see massive Social TV widget growth via channels from Intel, Yahoo!, and Boxee over the next 12-18months.

The real question is, how social will people really be via the “Third Social Screen?”  Except for gaming of course, the TV has long been a passive device enjoyed by one or many with little interaction, except for the occasional channel flip or volume change.  TV is traditionally a very different device from the other “Social Screens,” as the web and mobile are inherently social.   The Many-to-One nature of TV should be the focal point of every Social TV app developer, as we foresee traditional social apps (Twitter clients, Facebook clients, LBS power apps etc.) to have a limited space on TV.   However, if app developers can tap into the Many-to-One aspect of TV, they will pave the way for new social apps incorporating family, friends etc.

Perhaps the real growth of “Social TV” will be fueled not by the quest to “socialize,” but to acquire “FREE TV.”  According to Boxee’s Avner Ronen, “For many people, cable works just fine; the quality is great; the DVR functionality is great; the only gripe they have is that they’re paying for it.”  If  Social TV defines the next generation of broadcasting, it will be interesting to see how operators will profit from the evolution.