Samsung, Panasonic take on social TV at CES

January 8, 2013

There was a time when TV check-in apps like Viggle and Get Glue seemed edgy and cool. But the latest talk from the Consumer Electronics Show promises to push social TV way beyond apps, building social media into program plotlines, ad sales and even TV interfaces.

For TV executives and manufacturers alike, the “second screen” phenomenon remains an untapped well of opportunity. According to the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, more than half of U.S. adults use their cellphones and surf the channels at the same time. And while many of those people use their second screens to, say, play real-time TV critics on Twitter, TV executives want to attract them to proprietary apps or to integrate third-party social networks in innovative ways.

Samsung’s latest line of smart TVs, for instance, places social media on par with live TV and video on demand. Mashable reports that users can now access Twitter, Facebook and other social networks right from the TV’s main interface, making it easier to jump into the social conversation around shows. Even more interesting, liking something on Facebook is as easy as making a “thumbs up” gesture at the screen.

Panasonic CEO Kazuhiro Tsugo also announced a new “social media user interface” at his company’s preview press conference Monday night, ZDNet reports. The high-end Viera HDTVs will now play more nicely with phones and tablets — you can easily send photos from one to the other — and let users access social media apps from a personalized home screen.

As for the more distant future of social TV, experts can’t seem to choose a channel. At a panel Monday afternoon, veteran tech marketer Richard Bullwinkle predicted that networks will develop interactive shows whose plots respond entirely to social-media sentiment, CNET reports. Jack Flanagan, of the social TV analytics firm BlueFin Labs, said the biggest development would come in advertising — companies that require a minimum number of tweets or other social reaction to a show before they buy in.

The one thing all the panelists agreed on, according to CNET: Social TV is still in its “first or second inning.” But if that all-important social-media sentiment is any indication, the game is picking up. Twitter mentions of the phrase “social TV” have climbed steadily since CES started Monday.

Caitlin Dewey runs The Intersect blog, writing about digital and Internet culture. Before joining the Post, she was an associate online editor at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.
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