Mobile Devices to Power Social TV Experiences: Gartner

Although social TV will be driven by second-screen devices, the television is expected to remain the primary device for sharing video content in the home.

Tablets, smartphones and other second-screen devices, combined with customized content, interactive applications and loyalty programs, will fuel the behavior of social TV consumers over the next 24 months, according to a report from IT research firm Gartner.

The report suggested social TV activities can enhance the value of the TV experience for consumers and offer opportunities to add new users, drive engagement and open up new advertising opportunities through existing social networks.

The growth of smartphones, tablets and notebooks, in combination with their fast consumer adoption and the rise and ubiquity of consumer social networks like Facebook and Twitter, has led to the first integration of consumer social actions to the TV experience and is now transforming expanded activities that hardware vendors, content providers and advertisers can leverage to capture consumer attention, the study concluded.

"Second-screen devices such as tablets, smartphones and ultrabooks are likely to be the principal force behind social TV experiences as companion apps are increasingly written for that experience," Michael Gartenberg, research director at Gartner, said in a statement. "A combination of content integration, social interaction and loyalty programs are the key activities that will make up the social TV experience."

Although social TV will be driven by second-screen devices, the television is expected to remain the primary device for sharing video content in the home. However, the use of companion apps for social TV experience, combined with hardware additions for command and control, will present another incremental use for second-screen devices as well as creating additional perceived value as people spend more time using them.

"Watching TV was historically a social activity, either as a shared viewing experience or as the topic of post-viewing discussion and analysis," Gartenberg said. "The power of extending shared TV viewing, commenting and critiquing, combined with new ways of offering recommendations to friends, [has] already proved successful in existing social networks.

"Embracing and extending these activities to second-screen social TV experiences will drive stronger consumer loyalty, extend the value of brands and content properties and accelerate the curve of both content success and failure in terms of consumer adoption," he said.

Gartner also expects to see device vendors working with social TV apps to deliver not only content and services but also command and control functions for other hardware devices such as TVs, game consoles and audio systems.

"TV and video content providers such as cable companies have a great opportunity to target heavy users with social TV in order to reduce potential churn," Gartenberg said. "The time to take advantage of this opportunity is right now as social TV services have not yet been dominated by a single solution and the market is far from saturated."