Why all the fuss about social TV?

One of the things that’s intrigued me recently is the amount of enthusiasm for social TV devices and applications such as Zeebox.

It’s become increasingly difficult to avoid the subject in the last few weeks – a quick search reveals that more than 18,000 different articles have recently been written about the subject.

While these companies have done a fantastic job of generating headlines, my intrigue centres on the potential audience their products and services speak to – only 10% of UK Twitter accounts, for example, are actively used. Yet here we have a development that has been roundly lauded as the future of Television when it is, frankly, an enhancement for an exclusive minority who do not really relate to the great, unwashed TV viewing public.

It may be that I’m ignoring the old adage that we “overestimate the short term impact of technology and underestimate its long term effect”. Perhaps in 10 year’s time we will have all stopped buying the Radio Times in favour of watching the same programme that Jo Bloggs who we went to school with is addicted to. But I doubt it.

Perhaps my scepticism is mostly aroused because none of these social TV applications and devices actually do anything for TV itself, the medium that drives or potentially drives demand for their services.

What they need for success is great TV, TV that will be produced by the likes of the BBC, ITV, C4, Five and Sky.

Essentially their business model relies on broadcasters to create great programmes that we all want to talk about. Social TV platforms do not contribute to this process in any way shape or form.

We are privileged in this country to have some fantastic TV, but with the exception of Sky – which has a stake in Zeebox that could give it a potential return – it’s not been made clear how any of the other programme producers will get any contribution from these new businesses.

Perhaps they would like to reveal how they plan to help keep the fires burning at the top of the ecosystem.


    I hadn’t read this before I wrote my blog, Rhys, but you are spot on of course.  I think Zeebox is as much about what viewers can do for it (ie a source of cash from direct T-commerce) as it’s about what Zeebox can do for viewers to enhance the TV experience.