BY Matt Williams
The creative industry loves a prediction. Thought leaders from agencies across the world are spending hours writing blogs and speaking at conferences to claim that a certain medium or product is “the next big thing”.
When it comes to connected TV, we no longer need to make such a statement. It’s already arrived. And it’s a big deal.
The influence of connected TV has not gone unnoticed at Engine. Indeed, our very own Pete Edwards wrote a provocative piece on the issue for last week’s Campaign magazine. And this week we went one better, by holding our very own connected TV event.
In front of a packed audience, a high-profile panel, including Newswatch presenter Ray Snoddy, Zeebox founder Ernesto Schmitt, Google’s Tom Moore, Sky’s Gareth Capon and WCRS’ Toby Gunton, explored the potential of connected TV, and what it means for brands.
To kick off, Toby underlined just why connected TV is worth all the fuss. Watching TV is still the UK’s biggest leisure pursuit. Consumers spend 17 times more time watching TV than they do browsing Facebook, with an average of 120 hours of television being consumed per person per month.
Furthermore, around 9 million TVs were sold in the UK last year, 3 million of which offered some sort of ‘connected’ technology. And with broadband getting faster and more accessible, you can see why it’s argued that we’re at the tipping point for connected TV.
The Remarkable rise of Zeebox
One of those companies pushing connected TV over the edge is Zeebox. Billed as ‘your TV sidekick’, the social television tool exploded onto the scene last year, growing from zero to a quarter of a million users in a matter of weeks. BSkyB saw enough to purchase a stake in the company in January, and the product now sees 15,000 new users sign up to it every hour. You can see for yourself exactly what makes Zeebox tick here.
Zeebox co-founder Ernesto Schmitt gave us a riveting presentation on exactly where he sees the company’s future heading. “Linear TV is here to stay,” he explained, and the smart companies are “enhancing linear TV, not replacing it.” Zeebox is not a companion, but a sidekick to TV – created to productise existing human behaviour.
The very essence of Zeebox, Schmitt says, is its ability to help consumers discover new things. It’s a tool to help you choose what you want to watch. It knows what you like and goes to great lengths to help you find and access even more similar and related content.
This changes the way we watch TV forever. Another panelist, Tom Moore, the Industry Head, Media & Entertainment at Google, believes connected TV is taking engagement to a whole new level. “People will no longer watch something just because it’s on,” he says. “People now expect to watch what they want, when they want, on whatever device they want.”
The Consumer Comes First
Offerings like Zeebox will help facilitate that, Schmitt believes. But it will only be able to do it if the content is right. And that means putting the consumer first. “The experience needs to be relevant to what you’re watching,” he says. “No-one wants the firehose of the internet being rammed down your throat while watching TV.”
Instead, connected TV offers consumers the chance to enjoy a ‘virtual sofa’ with their friends, discussing and sharing TV programmes in real time. They’ll also be able to receive more highly-targeted advertising, that they feel is more relevant to them (which will also allow media owners to monetise the whole programme, rather than just the ad break, but we’ll talk more about that in a later blog), and access additional content and offers from the organisations and brands that they trust.
For advertisers, meanwhile, connected TV also means more accurate and timely data, greater collaboration and more sophisticated conversations with the consumers that are pertinent to them. And in a world where live programme events are becoming the norm, a brand that can offer something extra will benefit greatly.
So at this pivotal stage, what should the message to advertisers be? For Moore and Schmitt, the answer is quite clear. Don’t watch and wait, but test and learn. Don’t be afraid of connected TV. Don’t hide away. Connected TV is most certainly here to stay, and it’s time to switch on.