Are We Ready For Social TV?

BBC just published an interesting piece analyzing the potential for Social TV in our lives, and it seems inevitable that we’ll soon be chatting, sharing and browsing through our television. The piece looks at how mobile television applications and web blogs dissect live TV, and a large percentage of us use an active mobile phone or laptop as we sit in front of the television. Will these behaviours lay the groundwork for a transition to social TV?

First, it’s important to look at some of the social applications that already exist and augment our television experience. Facebook has been doing a tremendous job of adding Facebook Connect to a lot of key sporting and political events. During last year’s Presidential State of the Union, viewers were able to stream the speech, see status updates from their friends and leave status updates as they watched the show live. The feature was a tremendous success, and CNN has been steadily increasing the number of events that use the feature. As a user myself, I found it great to be able to see what my friends were thinking about the speech as it happened, but with one click, I was also able to see the general status updates from all over the world and get an opinion about the more general response. During the recent Olympics, I was also able to use a similar function here in Canada, as CTV leveraged the feature into their live video stream and this meant my Olympics coverage was connected to my friends for the entire two week run. It felt as if my more empassioned olympic fan friends and I had a place we could converge on at any time and chat about the sports.

The power of engaging one another as we consume content is a very attractive proposal, and Andy Gower from BT, one of the largest communications companies in the world, had this to say: “Social TV has the potential to radically change TV viewing from a passive experience to perhaps one that’s more personal, and potentially as a way to meet people and share experiences.”

In addition to social networks, there are a plethora of mobile applications that are also meant to be used while watching television. TV Chatter is an iPhone application which allows users to stream their opinions on shows and see other people’s opinions. It leverages the power of the Twitter network, and you’re pretty much able to discuss a show with fans from across the world as the show plays. It’s an awesome experience that allows people not only to add a new dimension to the television show, but find new friends with similar tastes.

So with these options, it’s obvious that there is a market for engaging with others users as you watch TV, and we’re going to continue to observe a transition in that direction. The big question is which hardware will really take the movement forward. Will it be Sony’s round of upcoming televisions that seamlessly integrate the web and browsers? Will it be the consoles, as XBox and Playstation continue to add interesting features that allow users to watch movies and chat using their avatars? Will it be a killer mobile application like TV Chatter? What do you think?