Social TV and Twitch: New Frontiers For Marketers?

Social TV and Twitch: New Frontiers For Marketers?

We as an industry need to learn what’s driving customers now by looking at the growth in social TV and live streaming event sites such as Twitch, writes iGaming futurologist Mark McGuinness.

Published 26th April 2015

Before the advent of the Internet, the humble television set in the living room was the focus of attention in most households. Families gathered around for ‘content’ in the form of entertainment, news, and sports events. TV as a medium still has billions of advertising revenue spent on it every year. Part of the reason why is because we, as consumers, tend to trust what’s advertised on the HD, curved, or 3D screen TV unit. We are a society of multi-screeners. Now we have access to many more TV channels, catch-up TV and the ability to view live streaming content on second screens (smartphones, tablets or laptops) and even third screens such as smartwatches. The multiplicity of ‘screens’ of some description pervades every single aspect or our lives. In fact, 90 per cent of all our media consumption and social interactions today are screen-based, blurring the lines between social commerce, mobile commerce and how we access entertainment, or infotainment, services. Could social TV, as it is often referred to, help the iGaming industry in the neverending battle to win the minds, hearts and of course gambling wallets of consumers? So what exactly is social TV? Defined in simple terms, it’s the union of television and social media, whereby viewers share their experiences via social channels using smartphones and tablets, resulting in what Advertising Age has called: “[A]massive and rapidly expanding real-time focus group and promotional force.” For me, social TV is the continued trend in entertainment broadcasting content services. It’s more than broadcasting yourself as in YouTube; it’s more than the social communication interaction related to the context of watching television or related TV content. Social TV allows the opportunity for an engagement between the content producer and the content consumers. Sure, TV no longer commands our full attention as it once did.

In fact, some analysts now refer to the TV as the background or indeed the actual second screen itself. However, TV has become one of the most common screens that are used simultaneously with other screens. Around 77% of our time spent watching TV is with another device, which recent market research suggested is 49% with a smartphone and 34% with a laptop/PC. We are also witnessing the seismic shift in the social TV programming content schedule. For example, who would have thought that TV audiences would engage with the highly successful video gaming concept of POV (point of view)? An example of POV is Channel 4’s Gogglebox that launched in 2013, where families and friends in their living rooms watching weekly British television shows have amassed nearly 3.5 million viewers. At the other end of the spectrum of this POV style concept we have Twitch, the live streaming eSports gaming platform. It’s where gamers watch other gamers play out the latest League of Legends and other popular video games. It’s so popular that Amazon paid close to $1 billion for the privilege of ownership. It’s not surprising, as the Twitch platform reached 100 million monthly viewers in December 2014. Social TV has grown significantly over the last few years, driven by the continued growth in smartphone and tablet usage, while viewers watch television and interact via social platforms such as Twitter with other fans. Twitter is already the number one destination for TV content sharing. Of course, we do have examples already of winning formats for social TV and second-screen betting, such as The Million Pound Drop Live, a BAFTA Award-winning game show which broadcasts live on Channel 4. The show uses an omni-channel approach to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to find contestants, and also to promote the show. Viewers of the live show are encouraged to play along online at the same time with statistics on their performance appearing on screen during the broadcast and being read out by the show’s presenter, Davina McCall. There are many challenges for a truly omni-channel approach for social TV. Ultimately the common threads around multi-screening, primary screen, second screen, platforms, devices, etc. are important. Likewise to understand the behaviour and consumption paths. But the ‘screen’ and whatever device it sits within is just the delivery channel – it’s now all about the content. That’s why Twitch is so popular - it’s a content destination. TV shouldn’t therefore be thought of as a screen just to advertise around; it’s content. Those ‘other’ screens are used to watch more content, sometimes at work and regularly on tablets and at different times of the day.

Content therefore is most definitely still ‘king’, and in the end, those in iGaming that win out shall be those that look at the supply chain and the customer insights that inspire discussion and excite an emotional response. As we saw last year, many operators acquired games development companies or invested in social studios to produce exclusive games, with the commodity being ‘content’, both access to and distribution of. In the same way, this year could see some activity through acquisition, with TV production companies used to developing gaming content in the form of TV shows, but deployed across different screens – now that would be truly transformational. We as an industry need to learn what’s driving customers now by looking at the growth in social TV, and live streaming event sites such as Twitch. Perhaps the days of sitting in front of the TV screen watching a 30-second gambling-led advert promoting betting, but being unable to comment upon or interact with the live event as it unfolds, will soon seem a rather isolating experience by comparison.

“We are witnessing a seismic shift in the social TV programming content schedule. Who would have thought that audiences would engage with the highly successful video gaming concept of POV (point of view)?”

“The ‘screen’ and whatever device it sits within is just the delivery channel – it’s now all about the content. That’s why Twitch is so popular - it’s a content destination.”

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