I presented at Australia’s only Multi-Platform TV show last week and my talk was entitled ‘The Gamification of Social TV – Inspiring the Stories of Tomorrow’. A broad brushstrokes look at the current trend of motivating TV users already busy in social networks to ‘interact’. The slideshare presentation is embedded below and the flow of that is echoed in this post (which has a few other rich media embeds too).

The structure was based on the usual questions, a) What is Social TV ? b) What is Driving it ? c) The Value for the Users  d) What it Means for the Creators who enable it?  Hoping to help the small but quality audience understand the reasons to look at the value Social TV brings to the users vs jumping straight in on the ROI of getting more eyeballs on the existing programming. The Gamification aspect is about looking at the ‘playful’ techniques being used to turn audiences into users around traditional type TV programming – which is already becoming socially active.
The Gamification of Social TV

A Bit of History

In defining Social TV I tried to point out that this is nothing new. Ye Olde Days of Interactive (social) iTV circa 2002 which I was heavily involved in at the BBC although based on single screen interfaces still had at its heart the need to connect viewers to the TV channel but also to each other . I referred to it as SetTopBox iTV with a slice of social and the most popular (up to 8 million during some shows) services tended to be the ones that synched the TV to the interactive element – one small step for tech one giant leap for editorial . So Social TV is not new, perhaps it is up to level 3.0 – 1.0 being single screen iTV, 2.0 video on the web combined with social and chat features and 3.0 the hybrid, global two screen synch’d & app based services we are seeing more and more of now.

From an personal and historical context I also talked briefly about a few early iTV services such as XCreatures  broadband service I produced in 1999 and delivered to 100s of test homes in London over YesTV IPTV service & B T broadband backbone. The BBC’s first broadband programme to live audiences where for me the significant elements was the way users could not only navigate through fragmented clips but most importantly communicate and leave their own comments at the end – remember this is on the same screen using an IR keyboard!

What is Social TV?

In terms of defining the landscape of Social TV I called these early days baby-steps and divided it into three key movements

  • The Conversation of TV   – around the back-channel, recommendation and communities
  • The Gamification of TV   – making services playful, tribe building and participative
  • The Personalization of TV   – encouraging users contribution , making it personally relevant  & drawing in their stories

Social TV Is Not A Battle for Eyeballs

I went out of my way to stress that Social Media is not battling with Broadcast TV for the big Ad Dollar prize , this is not Facebook vs ABC or iTunes/GoogleTV vs BBC but potentially about  the real synergy , Live format TV and Social Media as perfect bedfellows. I continue after the presentation slides.

I continued to describe some of the key drivers and why from an audience/users perspective this simple equation I put forward half a decade ago is now becoming more accepted

a) Content = King b) Conversation = Content therefore c) Conversation = King and the winners are those who enable the conversation/gamification/personalization in meaningful ways.

I also referred to my 7 scenarios or type of Social TV environments which was in my sticky post from a couple of years ago Social TV Reloaded (the 1st three near term ones copied below)

  1. MULTITASK (2 SCREEN ): The live social conversation takes place in 3rd party software like Twitter, Facebook or SMS, alongside the show but on other remote devices (mobile or laptop) & without the video element next to the chat
  2. EMBEDDED: The social conversation stream is aggregated in 2D panes, alongside the actual video show either on the main TV screen or PC/mobile. Various widgets control your view and what elements you see the show is pulled into your network view or you go to it.
  3. IN WORLD: You are represented as an avatar (at or full 3D character) inside a space and you watch the TV as if you are in a real space with a large shared screen as avatar group or reected in the show itself.

What is Driving Social TV?

It’s not about the new tech! and I used the example of Slipstream Single Screen Social TV and it’s not about the new gadgets such as 2 screen synch iPads growth or the ubiquitous Integrated TV with web browsers & social network services built in – In 2014 70% of all sets will be Web enabled and drawing on this 3 day conference which had a focus on the shift from broadcast to web delivered video and the business around Internet and IPTV, it’s denitely not about the content pipes shifting linear video!


Ecozones on Slipstream TV

It’s because former audience wants to be listened to and acknowledged and I used the simple example of the BBC and it’s viewer relationship – in 1990  there were fewer than 1 million contributions to BBC (snail mail, comments via newspaper, vhs etc: In 2000 viewer contribution were around 1 million per DAY (email, website comments, dv tapes, radio, uploads, iTV etc: ) by 2010 it had grown to more than  10 million per day (as above + most discussion & conversation impressions were taking place outside BBC’s extensive walled garden). It is clear users have realised on the 2 way web things are much more human…

  • Viewers are now users and want to be acknowledged
  • They want to share experiences especially TV events eg: The X Factor Effect – nearly 2% of ALL twitter traffic on Sun/Mon eves
  • It’s about being recognised, the I am Here effect! e.g.: GetGlue. 1 mill users March 2011 Source Lost Remote

But alongside all of this the passive prime time audiences are getting old, very old

Average primetime viewer hits 51 in 2011Wall St Journal March 2011

and it is the new generations of younger and psychographically younger-in-spirit users that expect a lot more now.

UK youth user behaviour is driving Social TV? The Child Wise survey of 2,445 children between the ages of 5 and 16

  • 80% + used internet “on demand” television services
  • Visited Facebook in the week before the survey ? “36% of 7 10 year olds “71% of 11 12 year olds “85% for 13 16 year olds
  • 97% from the age of 11 have their own mobile phone and 2/3 use them to access the internet

Australian youth-like behaviour driving Social TV? Australian Nielsen Online Consumer survey of 5800 internet users 77% of respondents saying they juggled at least 2 forms of media at once especially the potent mix of TV & web (tablet, smartphone, laptop) When people did two screen, 65 per cent said the internet had most of their attention, with only 14 per cent saying the TV did. I covered this new type of multi-tasking behaviour in my recent post on Multi-Platform Funding.

What is the value for the users?

From an audience perspective the desire for connected TV services has, for many, been driven from half a decade of connected use around video on the web such as Emergent real time chat behaviour around uStream and gaming encouraging the infamous back channel. Some services already recognise the importance of enabling social activity around their programming and XBoxLive is a good example of an already existing online community that can bring their energy around Pay-Per-Group-Play-TV. This game reference led to me highlighting some simple types of taking TV content and delivering play and conversation around it – Gamification

Enabling Gamication

Gamification of Social TV Level 0 – Providing social elements around the TV EPG

There is a cautionary tale here as a tsunami of TV-Check In Companies start Gate Crashing the Back Channel Party? They utilise simple game techniques, loyalty  points, recommendation earns, leader boards, easy conversation etc: but given the choice to the user as well as embedded apps inside Facebook or Twitter we may get severe fragmentation in this ‘primary’ EPG gaming area from companies such as

Clicker Media, CoincidentTV, Philo, IntoNow, GetGlue, Tweet TV, ClipSync, Miso, Yap.TV, Vualla, Tuner, Starling, theChanner, Show Rater, Moki.TV, Bunchball and many more

Gamification of Social TV Level 1 – In Show & In Story 2 Screen Synch.

A range of offerings from many enlightened broadcasters such as this generic one from ABC which actually uses the TV audio to provide basic synchronisation.

Gamification of Social TV Level 2Real time personal participation & inclusion

Simple examples include Cult TV iEmmy Award winner that had significant involvement from the connected web audience, visible in the studio and the L Word enhanced TV prototype I line produced that personally profiled the viewers.

Gamification of Social TV Level 3 – Living the story roles around the show

There have been very many early examples of this, especially in the Show Extension category, but Warehouse 13 is an interesting development whereby users can live some of the characters activities and share their findings –


Warehouse 13 part The X Files, part Raiders of the Lost Ark and part Moonlighting. The series follows United States Secret ServiceAgents Myka Bering (Joanne Kelly) and PeterLattimer (Eddie McClintock) when they areassigned to the governments secret Warehouse13, which houses supernatural “artifacts”. It is located in a barren landscape in South Dakota,and they initially regard the assignment aspunishment. As they go about their assignments to retrieve missing Warehouse 13 artifacts andinvestigate reports of new ones, they come tounderstand the importance of what they are doing.

Gamification of Social TV Level 4 – Connecting live users to the show.

A good example of this is another Syfy property Destination Truth

Connecting live users to the show Fans tweeted things for the actors to do and see where they were in real time. The viewers are also going to be able to track the teams in real time while theyre investigating. The banshee button allows viewers at Syfy.com to monitor some of the cameras around the site, and contribute if they see anything unusual while the actors are investigating.

Gloto.com whose technology is used to enable these kinds of interactions are often so popular that they trend on Twitter during the broadcast and overwhelm the broadcasters servers more at www.gloto.com/

Gamification of Social TV Level 5Users BECOME characters or play roles in the show

A brave new example of this is Beckinfield, albeit heavily web originated, given TV is really about formats now and not about the broadcast pipe this is an interesting nut to be cracked…Theatrics an Online Entertainment Company just raised $1.3M to launch Beckineld, a sci web series in which anyone can create and play a character

Theatrics is in the entertainment space, specically online/Internet based content. This is a brand new market category called Mass Participation Television. It is a blending of the technology and entertainment industries. Mass Participation? Beckinfield.com is the world s first online Mass Participation Web Series in which anyone can create and play a character, build an audience and collaborate on storylines through social media. In the story, the tenth grade English class has begun a project to get residents of the fictional town of Beckinfield to create video diaries. When you become an Actor, youll create a character who lives in Beckinfield. You will get weekly emails with storylines of what is happening in the town and then create short videos about your life there that become part of the grand story of Beckinfield. Anyone can watch the story of Beckinfield unfold by simply watching like a TV show or jumping from character to character in order to experience the story from every angle

UPDATE: In a similar vein we also have Albie Hect and Will Wright (Sims creator) collaborative TV show on Current TV, Bar Karma as recently covered in ARGNet.  A whole series collaborative created by the user audience who write characters and script the drama.

You Decide the Direction of Bar Karma.

Harnessing innovative technology from the mind of video game legend Will Wright and storytelling expertise from television hitmaker Albie Hecht, Bar Karma will revolutionize the way TV is made. And that’s by including you in the creative process. Utilizing Will Wright’s StoryMaker Engine, you decide the creative direction for Bar Karma, the first community-developed television series. Impress the Bar Karma producers and community with your suggestions, and your name just might end up in the credits. Our characters may help decide the fate of others, but you decide theirs. It’s not reality television; it’s real television made by real people. Including you.

Gamification of Social TV Level 6 Users are the show

There are a growing number of these and if we are pedants we could say everything from ‘America’s Funniest Videos’ through to many reality shows are roughly in this category. But services such as Life in a Day (24 July 10) the crowd sourced doco by Ridley Scott point towards something much more organic and personal from the user/audience. As I mentioned in my recent article Online crowd sourcing of the Sixth Kind we are seeing a growing number of TV destined call for contributions which is uniquely authentic. The results from the Ridley Scott call out speak for themselves  “Total number of submissions 80,000 and representing 197 countries, in 45 different language and 4 600 hours of rushes.

What it means when creators enable conversation, gamification and personalization

I finished my short presentation by looking at the ‘why bother’ question. Some benefits for Content Creators include getting users locked into Appointment to view, you have a much greater Understanding of your users tastes, you can Measure their interactions more usefullyOverall increase your audience and finally and most importantly Generate loyalty & retention – and much more…

But along with just providing these services you must respect your users and their sensitivity to friend spam misuse. Also respect your users in the Calls for Contributions which need to show that you, as the show creators, really want & are passionate about getting stuff sent in from them. In a world where every second site has a ‘send in what you think or a video or a photo’ you need to use the power of broadcast synchronicity and use presenters & locked-in show formats that respects and encourages user involvement.

I used the Office Fanisode and some stats from my example many moons ago – Fanisodes People Powered Entertainment where Showtimes L Word allowed viewers to write the episode.

Ratings went up by 51%, the site logged 175,000 visits and generated over 3,000,000 page views. After seven exciting rounds, 1,258 scene submissions and over 124,000 votes and 30,000 comments, almost 20,000 L Word fans collectively created the worlds very first Fanisode

A good social TV service will reward it’s creators in general buzz  and great metrics at the same time. At the moment still much of the conversation is taking place outside the show’s control or rather ‘patronage’  for example as reported in AdAge there are around 65 000 tweets when American Idol airs & 10k per day when off-air and 65% of that is female tweeters!

Trendrr.com is a great way to track basic online buzz around TV shows. Other shows such as the UK’s Million Pound Drop demonstrate how a great play along game combined with social elements introduce loyalty and rentention.

Play along with The Million Pound Drop Tune in every night when the show is on Channel 4 and visit the website right here at channel4.com/drop to play the game. When Davina asks the TV contestants a question, youll also get the chance to answer that same question via your computer. Can you make it to the end of the show without losing all your money? See if you can beat the TV contestants and new for this series, youll be able to play against your friends via Facebook. The play along game is just for fun, free to play and is only available when the TV show is live 1st series 4.5% 2nd series 8.6%


As a finale I didn’t get time to delve into participatory ads as much as I wanted too during the presentation but here is a simple definition and I have a long post on the potential of Social Activated Participatory Ads coming up!

Monetizing The Participatory Video Ad Participatory Video Ad (PVA. Associated with Social TV, Social Interactive TV.) A PVA is an actual video ad that consumers can rate, share information concerning and otherwise comment about. These give advertisers the ability to measure and view, in real time, users attitudes towards the ad as well as the product/service its describing. Gaming vendors and movie studios are two of the entities that have used them.

Closing statement – As creators of social TV 3.0 services we need to be clear of your Goals & ROIs such as “Build community & loyalty to show/channel and “Respect the users values & needs

We can do this in three ways, by enabling 1.The Conversation of TV (back channel, recommendation & community) 2.The Gamication of TV (playful, engaging & participative 3.The Personalization of TV (users contribution, relevant & their stories)

Traditional broadcasters & online video distributors new mandate: Social TV is not just about GROWING AUDIENCES it is about CONNECTING & PLAYING with TRUSTING PARTICIPATORY CO-CREATORS in altered TV environments