Zeebox and first mover advantage

Zeebox and first mover advantage

3 weeks ago I bought myself a sexy new Samsung smart TV, then just over a week ago came the perfect accompaniment in the form of Zeebox for the iPad.  Sure it may not be the most incredibly groundbreaking idea to create a TV listings app that delivers and allows you to share contextual information about what you’re watching – but then it’s simple things which often catch on.  Most of us have done the conference circuit and heard talk after talk about all the amazing possiblities of the second screen syncing to TV (from interactive ads to transmedia TV formats, shopping to new forms of content discovery), but now someone’s actually done something about it, and you’ve gotta at least respect that.

So here’s what I like:

1. Simple, intuitive and clean UI: It’s a really sleek design on iPad.  I love the forwards/backwards EPG (albeit limited to now, next and the previous show).  Clearly Anthony Rose has taken one of the better ideas from youview and run with it, although it would obviously be very exciting if/when it integrates with catch-up services.  I also like the simple ways of organising content by channel, popularity, friends and genres… if I had more than one friend on Zeebox I’m sure the ‘friends’ view would be quite compelling, which takes me on to…

2. Social features: It’s nice I can see what my friends are watching (although maybe my friends don’t appreciate me knowing they’re watching ‘Boob Envy’ on PickTV).  I like the prospect of inviting friends to view with me (again, when I have more friends on the app).  It’s a great bit of foresight to automatically add the show hashtag when I go to tweet.  And the fact my login to the app is via Facebook Connect makes life easy too.

3. Zeetags: Sure some of these aren’t quite right – but they’re pretty spot on!  While everyone else seems to be talking up investing shed loads of money into audio stream technologies Anthony Rose has taken the simpler and cheaper approach of generating tags from subtitles.  Ok – so it’s not that exciting that zeetags only lead to wikipedia and news – but there is HUGE commercial and creative potential here for both broadcasters, content owners and third parties – zeetags could be like a google adwords (or promoted tweets) for TV.

4. Controls your TV: I love the fact it can switch between channels on my TV – that makes it worth it alone.  Of course it’s pretty limited right now and doesn’t really address the issue that I tend to flick between Freeview HD and Sky – but again there’s a lot of potential as Zeebox is cutting out the remote and the traditional EPG – again a clever move with big implications (how long until a service like YouTube or Netflix buys a placement in the Zeebox EPG?).

5. Fast: It goes without saying but to keep my attention the app needs to download images/metadata quickly and be traction free – and it is pretty good in this regard.

There’s a few other bits in Zeebox that I’ve not tried or don’t really pay attention to (shopping, audience popularity, twitter feed (but that’s because I have my tweets open in tweetdeck on my third screen)), but then I’m sure others do use them.

The big thing for me is this has the potential to be disruptive.  So no one’s heard of ‘Zeebox’ as a brand yet, but how far behind are the broadcasters with their own version of this kind of thing?  If youview try to do something then are we to wait another year?  In that time zeebox (which will be on iPhone and android too I’d guess) may be a destination in its own right.  I was running a brainstorm called ‘Death of the Remote Control’ at Mindshare last Thursday and I was taken aback when I showed them Zeebox and they got very excited at how they could promote brands through zeetags… there are serious dollars which might leak to this kind of third party app.

So what are broadcasters to do?  They can get on board and make Zeebox an even more compelling proposition by giving it access to advertising timelines, additional content, interactive features, on-demand, and maybe in return share that potential revenue and get some valuable data?  Or they can try to kill it – create technical standards that make integration complex, deny it access to on-demand content, or try to create something better (and stay better).

It’s an exciting (and shrewd) move on the part of Anthony Rose.  To deliver something like this in under 9 months is pretty impressive, and the broadcasters are going to struggle to move at that pace themselves. I look forward to seeing what Zeebox, broadcasters and advertisers do next.

Zeebox Video Tutorial

TV window shopping

Earlier this week I read Deloitte’s report “TV+”, published to coincide with Edinburgh Television Festival.  One section that I found particularly interesting was buried at the back of the report and is all about TV’s relationship with shopping.  No doubt as IBC kicks off in Amsterdam broadcasters and producers will be looking at all kinds of tech solutions to bring TV viewing and online shopping closer together.

We’ve known for a long time that TV has driven shopping – from Jamie Oliver selling cookery books to Teletubbies toys.  In fact the Deloitte study shows that even amongst the 18-24 age group (who spend considerable amounts of time engaging with media other than TV) in the last year one in five found out about a new product and then bought it after seeing it on TV.  1 in 5 you say?  Well the only influencing factors higher were recommendations from friends or coming across the product in a store – social networks didn’t come close.

TV raises awareness of products more than any other media – and yet it’s hard to follow the path from seeing a product on TV and actually parting with hard earned cash.  On the web it’s so much simpler to track as, if people don’t buy it in situ, you can prove their path to the purchase.  Of course convergence offers big opportunities for TV – to take people all the way from ‘awareness’ to ‘transaction’.  Deloitte point to three trends that mean TV is in a great place to becomme a bigger force in shopping:

1. Connected devices in the living room – from smartphones (set to rise to 60% penetration over the next four years) to tablets (which are due to be sold at the same rate as HD TVs in the UK) – increasingly viewers will have the equivalent of a digital till sitting in their laps.

2. Multi-screening – almost half of the Delloite survey sample are browsing the web while they watch TV either ‘frequently’ or ‘almost always’.  Only one year ago 38% of people never two-screened, now it’s less than 25% (and amongst 18-24 year olds it’s only 3% who don’t do it!).  This behaviour means TV is increasingly having the power to influence and drive web based purchasing in real time.

3. E-commerce – Britain is the world’s leading online shopping nation – we spend more time buying things online than in any other nation. E-commerce already represents a sizeable 10% of all retail sales in the UK and that is growing 50% every year.  Even now, amongst those browsing the web while they watch TV, shopping is the second most popular activity (45% of this group and 50% of women).

So we know TV plays a significant part in influencing purchasing decisions.  Now convergence means we can track consumers to the till, but more than that, we can encourage and fulfil the impulse purchase.  Every broadcaster is thinking about incremental revenue opportunities, and this certainly presents an opportunity, but the report does recommend caution – that broadcasters being overt about trying to sell products could not only cause a brand backlash, but even more serious it could precipitate a wholesale shift from premium display advertising to commission-based advertising.  Convergence of TV and e-commerce is an exciting prospect for broadcasters and content producers, but just as fraught with risk as it is with opportunity.

Connected TV sets and boxes: an overview

Over the last 12 months we’ve seen all manner of connected TV platforms enter the market – from market leader Samsung’s Internet@TV service complete with TV apps, to a revamped Yahoo Connected TV with broadcast overlay (see this post).  We’ve had flops from Google TV, rumours of game changing new entrants in a revamped Apple TV, and of course promises of a next generation IPTV Freeview in the form of YouView which has suffered a series of embarrassing delays (see here).

All these services have been built on different technologies, with very little progress in a common standard (HTML5 anyone?), and so the ‘TV app’ market has remained little more an experimental space.  There have been successful app launches, particularly broadcast catch up services like 4oD and ITV Player on PS3, but this market’s hardly taken off, yet.

Connected TV penetration is still on track with manufacturers using their web enabled services to differentiate themselves from the competition, but in the TV set market at least it’s the CE manufacturers pushing it rather than consumers demanding it that’s driving growth.  If you look at actual engagement amongst people who have access to TV apps it’s pretty low, with TV catch up and YouTube an exception despite the interface clunkiness (and for commercial TV broadcast catch up a serious lack of content).

The really exciting convergence so far is on the second screen – playing on your mobile, laptop or tablet while you have broadcast on TV: the lean back TV and the lean forwards second screen, deepening engagement.  We’ve had endless launches in this space – check in services (here’s an old post on that), social services like starling (see here) and tbone, loads of second screen apps created for specific programmes like Million Pound Drop and New Look Style the Nation.  There’s also loads of great startups in this space creating services that work across devices tying together catch up, social and live interaction.

Earlier this year I created an overview of some of the key CE platforms in the connected TV space in the UK.  I’ve decided it’s no longer worth updating this overview – the differentiation between devices, platforms and services is fast becoming irrelevant - convergence is happening, even if getting these different tools to talk to each other is becoming increasingly complex.  But for anyone who wants a read of where things were last time I looked in the consumer electonics TV set and console space here’s an overview of connected TV services:

IPTV players grid image

 

“It is not about watching TV, it is about feeling part of it”: Channel 4 online briefing

Apologies that it’s been so long since my last blog – things have been busy with a rather exciting development project we’ve secured with a broadcaster.  I’m sworn to silence on that for now, but I can talk about this…

Yesterday the good and the great of the digital world came together at Horseferry Road to hear Channel 4’s vision for creating a new type of relationship with the viewer, and a new relationship with new suppliers.

The changing viewer relationship is about the shift to personalisation – from a homogenised mass audience all seeing the same ads or being offered the same catch-up content when they logon to 4oD for example, to a bespoke and immersive experience with the Channel 4 network – what they call ‘4D’: feeling part of television.

This data-driven vision will be realised by the creation of a universal registration system across Channel 4’s assets, plus the creation of new truly-2-way multiplatform television formats that both capture data and enhance the viewer experience (or should I say ‘fan’/’customer’ experience).

Truly interactive, immersive and personalised formats are a key plank in that virtuous circle that satisfies the fans, delivers value to advertisers, and ultimately delivers investment back into the creative sector.

So who is the creative sector that Channel 4 is looking to engage?  It’s been pretty widely recognised that the network has had a dependence on the super-indie suppliers, but now there are signs that’s changing.  We’ve heard it before for sure, but they’ve actually put money down to spend on this cause – in the convergence fund and for the smallest and newest suppliers: the Alpha Fund.  On forging new supplier relationships and boosting the supply of ideas head of online Richard Davidson-Houston said:

“We don’t believe in a hierarchy of TV and other platforms – a multiplatform TV format can come from a digital company… we are looking for new ways to tell stories… and we want ideas and stories from new sources”.

This was backed up by commissioning editor for convergent formats Anna Cronin and multiplatform commissioning lead Louise Brown who reiterated good ideas can come from anywhere, and they see a big part of their remit as partnering the people who think up great ideas with the people that are great at building stuff.  Collaboration is the future of new formats – it’s a good challenge to the big proprietary super-indie business model of recent years.

So, what ideas do they want?

Well often they know it when they see it but the headlines for me were that for convergent formats there’s an urgent call for ideas now… the thing that differentiates a convergent format from a multiplatform commission is that these are future formats that can’t be delivered right now – because the technology isn’t there yet for example.  It’s about the next evolution of the TV format, pure experimentation, and something that if it went further down the line wouldn’t be realised on screen until at least 2013.

Multiplatform commissioning needs on the other hand are more immediate – with development funds available this year leading to commissions throughout 2012.  Key bullet points are: ambitious, simple and clear, audience behaviour driven, entertaining, risky, bringing in great talent from UX people to games developers.  Key genre needs are new access and formats for features, funny games/quizzes for entertainment, ideas to get the public excited and engaged with Channel 4′s paralympics coverage in 2012, and in news something defining to set the pace.

Get pitching!

How Brits are using their iPads

Imano has just published a great infographic on how Brits are using their iPads.  Here’s a quick summary:

As a leisure device:
95% of owners use it in their living room and 89% in bed. Internet browsing and email is the killer application (98% and 94% respectively), but 88% are also using it to consume video, music and radio, and 78% use it for social networking. iPads are primarily for leisure – less than half of respondents use it for work.

A great transaction platform:
78% of owners use their iPad for online shopping. What’s very impressive is that half of owners (48%) say their iPad is the internet connected device they spend the most money on – more than mobile (11%), laptop (16%), fixed computer (19%) and cable/internet TV (4%).  If broadcasters/content owners want a transactional relationship with their viewers in the future then chances are this will not be via red button but via a second screen, particularly a tablet.  However investment in second screen commerce will be limited until iPad/tablet penetration picks up (which will probably come as prices drop). In terms of apps most iPad owners have paid-for 20-49 apps.

A shared device
31% of iPad users say they’re the only user.  50% of users share it with a spouse/partner, and 29% let their children use their iPad. While we talk about mobile as personal device, we need to design apps for iPad that can switch between a state of being personal and communal.

A strong connection with gaming consoles
I thought it was particularly striking that 51% of iPad users also own a Wii, 34% own a PS3 and 30% an XBOX – a far higher proportion of console owners that the broader population. We’ve already seen iPad used as a remote control with Comcast Xfinity amongst others, how long will it be until the iPad becomes the games console controller? Also, 79% of British owners use the iPad itself as a gaming device.

For watching video
The most popular source of video on iPad is YouTube (87%), closely followed by catch-up TV (74%).  The catch up TV stat is pretty impressive when you consider that it’s really only iPlayer that offer a full inventory of catch up material, with Channel 4’s 4oD service offering limited content and Sky Player costing £8 per month (although that’s changing shortly when Sky launch Sky Go)… this is going to be a major growth area.

iPad owners are real advocates
94% of British iPad users love their iPad – 70% say it’s ‘excellent’, and 24% say “it’s the best thing in my life”… oh dear!

Uk iPad Usafe infographic
Screen shot from Imano: click here for the full infographic

 

Will the rise of social TV be the death of UK drama?

5 years ago many media commentators were predicting the end of the linear TV and the death of the television schedule as people migrated to on-demand internet delivered TV, or simply moved their attention to other types of online content.  The reality is that linear viewing has held strong- in both number of hours (over 4 hours per day and growing) and the proportion of viewing (95% of TV content is still viewed live).  The prediction that the web would cannibalise television was too simplistic; in many cases it has provided a new platform for existing viewers to interact with shows on the second screen, thereby deepening their engagement, and the web has even driven new audiences to TV and cemented live viewing as people discuss and share shows on facebook, twitter, and many of the new generation of social TV apps… the ‘watercooler moment’ has become realtime!

This is all great news surely?  Well yes and no – because this 4th dimension of television, the social layer, has implications for the type of content that UK broadcasters want.

The shows that generate buzz are typically ‘live’ or ‘event’ TV… X-Factor, Million Pound Drop, The Apprentice, live sports – television that demands linear viewing because if you don’t watch live you’ll either miss out on the water cooler conversation (which can often be as much fun as the actual show), or in the case of most reality shows you’ll miss the result and therefore lose out on the entertainment of guessing the outcome… I’m sure it’s not just me that’s had my catch-up viewing plans ruined by finding out who got fired on The Apprentice on the twitter stream?

The economics of production (particularly the relatively lower cost of reality over drama), the economics of broadcasting (the need to capture large simultaneous audiences to satisfy advertisers), combined with the social layer as a driver to live TV and a new form of audience insight will increasingly drive commissioners and schedulers to live and event telly, but what does this mean for other genres?

Many of us appreciated critically acclaimed dramas like ‘Any Human Heart’ or ‘Red Riding’ on TV, but the truth is they didn’t rate, these kinds of dramas rarely rate, and they’re expensive to make – commercially most of them don’t make sense for TV broadcasters.  I’m not saying drama never works in terms of ratings or buzz – look at Downtown Abbey, Doctor Who, The Inbetweeners – just that in the pursuit of maintaining audience sizes and share broadcasters will increasingly have to rely on live, event and participative content that creates and feeds off the buzz online. Furthermore I’m not saying drama can’t be commercially successful, many dramas make lots of money from international sales, downloads, DVDs, but most of that cash goes back to the producer/distributor, not the broadcaster.  For now viewers and UK producers are in a somewhat fortunate position to have two PSB broadcasters in the BBC and Channel 4 who are obliged to produce types of content like drama (and documentary) that don’t typically demand live viewing from the audience, but there’s no guarantee in the long-term that this commitment will stay.

So the importance of social network activity may not be good for all genres and all viewers in the UK, but the resulting glut of reality and live TV may ultimately not be good for the growth of on-demand services – because if all the content we’re watching (or at least the content that gets decent levels of investment) is live and only relevant to that point in time then who’s going to watch it further down the line?  I certainly wouldn’t watch last years Strictly Come Dancing again, but I might watch a great original British drama a year later, 10 years later, and further down the line.

So what’s the solution?  I’m no drama expert but I’d suggest three things.  First UK drama producers need to re-examine the terms of trade -  if they want broadcasters to pay for a large chunk of their glossy high-price-tag drama they need to accept that broadcasters should get a longer window for offering this content on-demand, or otherwise the economics don’t make sense… and UK drama will ultimately lose out to both US drama and other cheaper programme genres.  Second producers need to innovate – they need look at interesting ways of engaging audiences to create a buzz that doesn’t ruin the linear experience – and a great example would be in shows like Misfits or Skins who build an active fanbase pre-broadcast, drip feed content between episodes and constantly reward their fans. There are lots of other examples too, from Hollyoaks asking the public to be a virtual jury of a rape trial in the drama, to shows like Dexter in the US that created an animated series to run online between series.  Finally, dare I say it (I know this is an easy thing to say but less easy to do): broadacasters, producers and distributors need to invest more in UK drama – to make what the UK does do stand its own against US imports – to create fewer but bigger longer-running drama brands that attract international attention, international investment, and a broader and bigger noise on social networks… shows like Torchwood have started making these steps with international production, lots of interesting participative elements, but there’s a long way to go.

Dexter Early Cuts animated series Skins Take Part Channel 4

Transmedia is so much better with TV, but cracking TV does not come easy

Coming from a TV development background it’s probably not surprising that I see TV as a central component of a good transmedia format.

A big television element delivers the scale of audience needed to drive interactivity. Successful TV shows capture millions of eyeballs and it’s the perfect advertising platform to convert viewers into active participants. Once you’ve converted even a fraction of those television viewers you have the scale of audience needed to make the simultaneous interaction exciting, the conversation stimulating, and it becomes worthwhile ‘powering up’ that return path to learn about your audience/behaviour/sentiment across a reliably large sample size.

Crucially for me though, the TV element makes sense in terms of the economics of content production.  We all love what we do, but £10k apps here and there won’t pay the bills forever.  With television the budgets are better (because whatever you develop it has to withstand a mass simultaneous onslaught of activity), the rights position can be stronger if you structure the deal right (ie. it’s easier to retain your IP), and the profit from TV production can be pretty good – and then some of that cash can go back into funding even more really cool, exciting and cutting edge stuff.

Loads of TV shows with interaction have been doing well and winning awards in the last month, however none of these really realise the full potential of what transmedia should/could be… so why aren’t the broadcasters buying?

In my experience TV commissioners are still pretty conservative and the people who are most enthusiastic about transmedia formats come from outside TV (from the world of gaming particularly).  They often have a great initial concept but they don’t know how to format a TV show, and they push some of the TV conventions so far that it’s just too high risk for the people holding the cheque books.  TV commissioners are used to sitting back and being sold to – on their terms and in their language – they’re pretty unforgiving!

More often than not people have strong transmedia concepts that would play out brilliantly on mobile/online, but the TV element can be a bit of an afterthought (which is ironically the complete opposite of what most TV production companies are doing which is delivering great TV ideas with an interactive ‘bolt on’).  A key part of transmedia storytelling is that each device has to add something to the whole and the idea is only as strong as the weakest element in that package… putting ‘highlights’ of what’s going on online on TV does not make good television viewing!

Another common mistake in transmedia development is an assumption that everyone watching on TV will be playing along.  Truth is a 5-10% conversion rate of the television viewing audience playing on a second device is pretty impressive.  Does your format stand on its own two feet with the 90% who just want to lean back and watch?

The last few months have seen me dealing with these kinds of issues on a regular basis, consulting and collaborating with lots of great ‘digital’ companies/entrepreneurs and TV companies who are struggling to bring the ‘TV’ and ‘other’ together in a coherent way (and then struggling to communicate their vision to broadcasters).  I understand that it can be hard for companies to share their idea with others, but in the end to sell a transmedia format into TV you need more than generalists, you need people with TV expertise.  Just as you wouldn’t trust a TV company to build a social game, why would any broadcaster trust a games company to make (or even really understand the mechanics) of a good TV show?  What I’m saying, somewhat in self-interest but in the interest of us all getting stuff actually made is that no man is an island… if you want to crack TV you need the right partner by your side.

Registration: our best friend and worst enemy

I have a confession to make: I don’t have a different password for every single online account in my name. Sure there’s a few particularly sensitive or transactional accounts which might be an exception but for most there’s a good chance it will be one of a couple of variants.

As a digital evangelist I should probably know better, but as more and more of what we do online is powered by a personal relationship with hundreds and thousands of different companies can we really be expected to remember the same number of unique and uncrackable password combinations?

Well for the 77 million plus Playstation Network users out there (of which I’m one) we’re faced with this this very question.  It’s a real wake up call that if a company the size of Sony isn’t encrypting our data properly then can we place faith in SMEs… is it safe to share my details with the likes of ITV, or the Guardian, or foursquare?

So what does all of this mean for the convergence of TV and the web? All the major broadcasters recognize the need to move past a reliance on BARB data and to develop a direct and data rich relationship with consumers, but the catastrophic failure at Sony is a further dent to consumer confidence in sharing their information.

Without registration it will be harder to offer consumer products that deliver a personalized service, from surfacing content that’s relevant based on explicit user preferences, to using account histories and user behaviours to power recommendation and improve user experience (eg. one-click purchase).  And let’s not forget this data is also important customer insight and of value to advertisers who may support our services.  As consumers lose trust the consequence may be to strengthen the attractiveness of universal login services through third parties like facebook further eroding our direct relationship with consumers and introducing a middleman (and middlemen eventually need paying).

There’s also a very practical issue for the kind of convergence we want to deliver.  Because of the PS3 hack I not only have to change my twitter login on twitter.com, but on all the accounts that sync with it: my mobile, tweetdeck, peep, tweetme, facebook, and the list goes on.  What does this mean if we want people to be able to buy through Amazon on their remote? And what about the next generation of EPGs that will be powered by the social curve and our online behavior elsewhere on the web?  We’re talking about not only a lot of places for data to leak but many more places to update when things go wrong.  Again this plays into the hands of the big players like Facebook, who would surely love every movement we make on the web passing through their walled garden, but then the debate moves from one of data protection to privacy…

Right now many consumers are sharing their information in a pretty unguarded way, in good faith, only to discover that the privacy they thought they had isn’t so, from facebook thinking it’s ok to pass their mobile numbers to third parties, or masses of sensitive information being passed to app producers via the unregulated Android marketplace (including many apps with the sole purpose of harvesting data). To remind consumers that all of this activity is permitted by the ‘terms and conditions’ on these services is no defense, these companies really are cutting off their nose to spite their face.  Add these privacy violations to the PS3 data leak as the latest in a long list of recent security compromises (play.com, Internet Explorer…), and a press who love to stoke up fear amongst the public, and we have a serious problem…where consumers will simply refuse to share, or worse the government will intervene in a big way.  Both scenarios are terrible news for competition and innovation, but most depressingly it’s terrible news for the free web and SMEs.  From Sony and facebook to startups present and future: we need to get our house in order, take consumers concerns seriously, or risk losing the most valuable thing we have: a relationship with the customer.

Convergence: What a difference a year makes

Another great session at South by Southwest this year was by Dan Shust at Resource Interactive, looking at some of the big trends for 2011.  Here’s a quick summary:

Social: The integration of Facebook across platforms via Facebook Connect continues at a relentless pace.  Another major innovation has been the ‘like’ button which only appeared 11 months ago but has already been pressed over a billion times.

Location: SXSW 2010 was all about the battle between Foursquare and Gowalla, but since then Facebook, Google and even Twitter have switched on location features.  There’s an issue though and that is check-in fatigue.  In 2011 expect to see the rise of passive check-in services – things like ShopKick which uses high-frequency sound emitters (mosquito style) in stores like BestBuy and SportsAuthority to check you in.

Audio: which brings us neatly onto the increasing role of audio prompting action in your mobile device.  Just as ShopKick uses sound to determine location, a new generation of Shazaam style services are emerging – like IntoNow and Yahoo Broadcaster Interactivity in the TV space.  If 2010 was the year of the QR code to launch services, 2011 is the year of the audio wave.

Entertainment Everywhere: 2010 was the year of talking about entertainment services across platforms – take Sky Player on XBox, or the ubiquity of iPlayer.  2011 is all about Netflix who are everywhere except Android now.

TV: We’ve seen how the conversation around TV has in many ways started to eclipse TV itself – or at the very least become a major part of the viewing experience.  Up to now much of this experience is via a second screen.  Now the rise of connected TV will increasingly see second screen TV experiences complimented by on-TV interactive experiences that blur the lines between television, web and gaming.

Commerce: This year will see the continuing atomisation of commerce into distributed shopping platforms – Facebook, YouTube, etc.

Life as a Game: Gamification was the big buzzword from SXSW 2011.  Last year saw the rise of services like Foursquare and the continued growth of Nike+, but 2011 will see the application of game principles to even more aspects of everyday life.  These game experiences will be richer than ever before – take EpicMix as a great example of where real world gaming is headed – mixing social, points, status and competition in a really neat way.

Augmented Reality – this time last year XBox Kinect was being whispered about under the code name ‘Project Natal’, and now it’s the hottest console gaming accessory in the market.  As processors improve there will be more and more products in this space – take a look at the video for language translation app Word Lens at the bottom of the post.

iPad – and finally the iPad has been out less than a year but we’re already on version 2 with Android and Blackberry already competing for market share.  So maybe it’s not going to be the saviour of the newspaper industry as some overly-optomistic advocates predicted but we’re still in the early adopter phase of growth and expect more and more innovation and competition in this space.

The TV check in market heats up with the introduction of Shazam style sound recognition

Over the last few months various TV check in apps have come on to the market.  From Miso to GetGlue, TunerFish to PlayPhilo (see this Mashable post), it seems sharing what you’re watching with your friends is the next big thing.  And what’s great in theory is that unlike GPS services like Foursquare that are about checking in at physical places, these services are about checking into media via your armchair – perfect for the lazy…

Except there’s the problem, these services aren’t as lazy-friendly as they could be because you actually need to boot up an app, search a schedule for the show you’re watching, and then click to check in – all pretty time consuming when you’re just looking to kick back and relax.  But today came news of an interesting approach to this problem – the introduction of a sound recognition software.

The latest player in the market, IntoNow, may be late to the party but has one killer accessory in its ‘SoundPrint’ system, automatically checking you in to shows just by analysing the sound waves and patterns from television and movies- think of it as Shazam for video.  It not only works for old shows and movies which are archived (140million minutes of archive and growing), but can even recognise some live television – pretty cool.  (Yahoo Connected TV has also recently started using sound recognition to serve up relevant content, bypassing the need for broadcaster metadata).

As with most these apps once you’ve checked in to your show you can share to your social graph (in app, twitter and Facebook), earn badges and get special offers.  With the public spending on average 62% of their leisure time watching television you can see why media check in is the new gold rush.

While sound recognition makes the user experience simpler there are still a number of hurdles to overcome.  Getting these check in devices onto and operating efficiently on connected TV is an obvious issue, some are attempting it already, but none (to the best of my knowledge) actually offer a broadcast overlay checkin tied into the electronic programme guide.  Switching between broadcast and native TV apps is a big barrier to the market – getting to the point where you click one button on your remote to checkin (or you can select automatic checkins) is the future.  To make this happen the television check in cos are going to have to strike deals with broadcasters and cable cos, which takes me on to the final point…

Patnerships between broadcasters and TV check-in services are key.  If I’m a fan of a show like House I’d really like to be rewarded with relevant content for checking in to House.  As lovely as having a badge is as per Foursquare, I’d rather have an exclusive clip to watch at the end of the show – I’ve shared a bit of data with the app, I want something decent in return, and then I may come back next time.  Partnerships are starting to happen – Miso for example offers its users deals when they check into QVC shows, and GetGlue has done a deal with TimeWarner to provide incentives and rewards for checking in to Time Warner content and channels (which came with a big equity investment too).  Problem is I don’t want to switch between TV check-in apps depending on what channel I’m on to get a good experience – I want something that covers everything with the same simple one-click interface.  With Youview in development in the UK surely this is something BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Five could work out together with the right partner- ensuring over 75%+ of British television viewing is covered by a single and seamlessly synced app/broadcast overlay.

Broadcasters, advertisers and TV check in services working together has the potential to be hugely beneficial – providing rich data on users behaviour that trumps BARB and Neilsen, as well as allowing broadcasters and advertisers to target special offers, exclusive content and personalised recommendations.  And for the check-in operators a nice income stream for sharing information and their audience.

The entry of IntoNow is just another example of how hot this space is going to be through 2011.  And don’t assume the big boys aren’t aware of this – Google have provided venture capital to Miso in a tough fought battle with Microsoft, and with Facebook ramping up its rival to Foursquare while snapping up rivals I suspect it won’t be long until it launches its own media check in service.

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