The day you’ll know social TV has arrived

A new wave of conferences, meetups and events has swept through our convention halls in the last 18 months. TVnext, Social TV Summit, TV of Tomorrow, NewTeeVee and others bring together media, startups and vendors to discuss the future of television. After attending many of these and following all of them I have deduced a way to measure the arrival of “the future of television.”

There is a vast ecosystem of new technologies, social media strategies, digital marketing tools and analytical systems under the umbrella of social TV. Most people think of this new phenomenon as viewers using new digital offerings to socialize while consuming video content. The attendees of “social TV conferences” are therefore from digital product, digital marketing, social media, mobile and research groups.

This is easily understood by looking at the just-released roster of speakers at Hill Holiday’s upcoming TVnext event. It includes executives responsible for digital analytics (Trendrr, SocialGuide, etc.), digital and social marketing at media companies (BET, Bravo, USA, etc.), and third party social offerings (Miso, GetGlue, etc.).

I have nothing but respect for the organizers and their guests, many of whom I work with and have served with on other conference panels. The event’s panels are packed with valuable insights. However, I had an epiphany in realizing that this lineup is similar to previous events:

The future of TV won’t be here until people who make TV are in these conversations!

If social TV is about new digital products and social/marketing techniques then the future is here. If the phenomenon goes deeper, to the core of the TV business, to the very nature of the content we create, then we still have a long way to go. For me, the distinction is between “social viewing” as an evolution in the TV viewing/consumption experience and “social TV” as an evolution in what TV fundamentally represents.

To put it simply, if the TV content is the same then it’s not social TV. Likewise, social TV conferences can’t claim to discuss the future of TV if they only include digital folks.

The day we’ll know the promise and potential of social TV has arrived will be the day that conferences billing themselves as discussing the “future of TV” feature programming executives responsible for creating the content that drives the core business model of media companies.

Until those media executives invited aren’t relegated to job titles with the words “digital” or “social” in them we’ll know the future hasn’t yet arrived.

Until those vendors and startups invited work with content creators instead of digital marketers and social managers we’ll know the future hasn’t yet arrived.

The future of TV can’t just be about new forms of marketing or new types of mobile apps. It has to be – and will be – about new forms of content based on a fundamentally different relationship between viewers and creators.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and in no way represent any official position, plan or strategy of his employer.

(Guest post by Jacob Shwirtz, who serves as Viacom Media Networks’ expert on social viewing and social media. In this role he blends strategy, business development and product management to steward various pilots and experiments across the company. Jacob brings an entrepreneurial approach to VMN, as the creator of TweetBookz, a service for Twitter users that creates high quality coffee table books of tweets, as well asPodBookz, a partnership with Kevin Smith to allow fans to purchase books of their favorite podcasts.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s