Washington - As social media explodes with applications for interacting with TV (Facebook, Twitter, GetGlue, Pinterest) and just as many to measure that interaction (Trendrr, SocialGuide, Bluefin, Networked Insights), the ecosystem is facing an inevitable consolidation if it wants to monetize that interaction.
Indeed, the last year has seen Nielsen buy SocialGuide and Twitter buy Bluefin, and for now Facebook and Twitter seem to be the preferred platforms for viewers to talk about TV (and hence, advertisers to reach them), panelists said at "Couch Companions: Social TV Applications and Why They Matter" at the Cable Show on Tuesday afternoon. As Jane Schachtel, global head of technology vertical marketing at Facebook, put it, 46% of the time, viewers are discovering shows on Facebook, whereas the second platform represents only 14%.
Sean Casey, founder and CEO of SocialGuide, said that when there are a lot of products in the market, the challenge becomes creating scale so that the platform's audience is big enough to be attractive to an advertiser. In that way, Facebook and Twitter have achieved scale because their audience is wider than just television. "Because Facebook and Twitter haven't created explicit TV experiences, it seems like they're being more used for TV," he said in the panel moderated by CNET News' Maggie Reardon.
Zeebox - which counts Comcast, NBCUniversal, HBO and Viacom as partners - still believes there is room for other players to build scale, however. "When you fragment the experience you never can get to that level of scale," said Ernesto Schmitt, co-founder and CEO of Zeebox. "As an industry there's an advantage in having mass adoption of one platform."
John Penney, executive VP of strategy and business development at Starz, who deals with scripted programming that calls for a more passive second-screen experience than live events, says while mass-appeal platforms may be important for scale, it's also important to design the apps to engage and not distract the consumer. "We have to make sure that we design distraction mediums in a way that actually engage people in the brand for the subscriber focus that we're looking for," he said.
And above all, monetizing social TV apps may just take time for content creators and advertisers to get on the same page.
"Usually advertisers tend to be a little behind the content creators," said Lisa Hsia, executive VP of Bravo Digital Media. "So finding that point of value in the merging, there's going to be a gap."