August 19, 2009
It's discussion time, folks. I want to hear what you think about the potential for Facebook and Twitter on the TV screen. No, stop laughing, I'm serious.
I ask because I published a report for Forrester earlier this month called Five Things We Want From Social TV (click here to read). It was partly in response to Verizon FiOS's new Facebook and Twitter TV widgets which were released in early July. (Look at a demo on YouTube here). Here's the summary so you know what I wrote about:
Thanks to Verizon, the first meaningful Facebook widget in the US has come to the TV. Some question whether the active Social Computing experience has any place in the so-called "lean back" living room experience. Those people are wrong. Once Facebook, Twitter, and other Social Computing platforms are properly ported to the TV screen, a new explosion of media and technology convergence will occur, affecting the product strategies of device makers, content providers, and pay TV providers. In this report, we propose the five things that Social TV providers should prioritize — steps that will lead to a converged future of Social Computing and TV viewing.
All my cards are on the table: I obviously believe in this because I said it would be a new explosion of media and technology convergence and them's fightin words.
I've been out talking to people about this report and as you can imagine, the results are mixed. Some people love it, some people have responded with, "Web TV didn't work, why should this?" Fair enough. Before I turn it over to you to tell me what's really going to happen, I'll add that I went back to the people at Verizon to see how their widgets — now one month old — have fared.
I knew they wouldn't be in a position to share user data with me — they are a public company after all — but when I prodded, they were willing to admit to two indirect measures that I find very interesting. They said that "several million" full-resolution Facebook photos have been viewed on their FB widget and "several million" tweets have been viewed on their Twitter widget. Let me take you down the analyst path with these numbers. First, FiOS has about 2.2 million TV subscribers. "Several million" by definition means at least two million, so I'll stick with that, though I assume it must be a bit higher than that or they wouldn't say several. That means that one of two things is happening: either 1) all of their subscribers have used each widget just once, or, more likely 2) that some portion of their subscribers (10%-20% I estimate) have been doing it intensely. In just one month's time, mind you. With zero marketing to promote it.
In fact, it has been so successful that Verizon has already updated the widget twice, once to add an on-screen keyboard for posting more detailed information to either widget, and again (just this week) to allow you to create a list of Twitter friends you want to follow on your TV screen. This last one is critical, by the way, to the vision I outlined in my report. It's worth mentioning that two updates in one month means this is popular enough to make Verizon dedicate resources to it in short order. This is not the norm in the set top development world — for Verizon or anybody else.
Take all that background as food for thought and let's dive in. Do you want to do this? If so, why or why not? Have you tried it? Perhaps more importantly, what use cases do you see this working for?