Blog Post

Get Ready for Social TV and 3 Screen Video Packages

Between over-the-top video delivery, widgets and remote-less TV controls, what a television does will go through dramatic changes in 2009. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. According to two new research reports, people are looking for their TVs to get social, and the way we purchase TV service could be in for big changes.

As Liz found out during the inauguration, integrating Facebook with a video feed is a way to enhance the viewing experience. Turns out she’s not alone in wanting to socialize while watching TV. A new study from ABI Research found that 36 percent of those people who use social media on a regular basis would like to access their networks on the TV screen.

From the ABI press release:

When asked which types of application they would be most interested in for social TV, the answers were somewhat dependent on age. Younger consumers were more interested in engaging with their friends through chat and messaging, while middle-aged respondents were more likely to be interested in more passive social networking behavior such as checking status updates. The most popular potential application for those over 50 who expressed interest in TV social networking was being able to see what their friends were watching on TV.

This is the part of the post where I eat a little crow. I used to think that anything less than having people physically in the room with you was pointless and hollow. But since the inauguration, I’m starting to come around. Sharing a running commentary with friends or like-minded fans could actually make watching shows like Lost a lot more fun. (One trick will be getting the font size on the screen big enough to read from far away without it looking ridiculous.)

Elsewhere in researchville, The Diffusion Group (TDG) reports on how we order and pay for video service is likely to change. Right now, consuming video on three screens (TV, PC and mobile) requires three separate contracts at three separate rates. According to TDG, what operators need to do is repackage these separate services into one more-consumer-friendly, all-encompassing video package.

I spoke with Michael Greeson, president of TDG, who said that this video package wouldn’t distinguish between video for your television, online video and mobile video. Instead, it would offer the same video service you get for the TV in your living room and include the same channels on your PC and mobile phone.

Greeson doesn’t think this shift will happen overnight, and large operators like Verizon (s VZ) and AT&T (s T), who have all of these capabilities under one roof already will benefit most from this strategy. TDG’s survey found that one-fourth of U.S. adult broadband users (roughly 35 million people) would be inclined to sign up for such a video service for a price somewhere between $65 and $105 per month.

While having an all-in-one bill would certainly streamline my accounting, it would also give operators more control over my content. Even as Netflix’s (s NFLX) streaming service is catching on with audiences, Time Warner Cable (s TWC) is throwing up roadblocks by expanding metered access. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine a scenario where a TDG video package prioritizes the operator’s video on all platforms at the expense of others, such as independent video producers.