During the football Italian league 2013-2014, a bit of my life has definitely changed in a particular way: as I watch every single football match. Discussing either around a player’s skills or a single referee decision in real time with friends supporting a fierce rival is now part of my life. I’m reached even when I don’t want. Internet and social networks have created the oppurtunity for people to connect around television, chat each other and exchange opinions while watching the same program in different places. And as for football, this can also happen for a tv show, a movie, a music contest: in a few words, tv is becoming social.
A big market and a much hyped trend, especially some years ago. According to a report recently published by MarketsandMarkets, the global social tv market is expected to reach $256.44 billion by 2017.
Given this potential, are tech startups trying to pick this opportunity as well? Are they trying to disrupt tv? Yes they are. In general, it happens in different ways: providing content discovery, social programming, and check-in applications, tools that offer a customized television experience based on the viewer’s choice of interest, as well as second screen platforms to engage more viewers and to increase the targeted audience. Useless to say, all of this represents an opportunity for advertising as well. Anyways, despite a lively ecosystem, venture capital has not flowed massively (may be due to the fact that exits in the space was not so good until 2013). However, some deals have taken place and have a look at some examples.
TOK.tv, which provides a platform that allows fans to watch sports events and create virtual living rooms of up to four people via mobile apps, recently raised $820k in funding (read here). Backers included investors from Italian Angels for Growth (IAG), venture capitalists and other business angels including Armando Biondi, XG Ventures, Klein Venture Partners, TEEC Angel Fund.
i.TV, a social TV and second screen platform, is backed by DIRECTV. Led by CEO Brad Pelo, the company provides a social TV and second screen platform that enables people to discover, watch and engage with television. It recently acquired GetGlue, a social network for entertainment.
TVSMILES, a Berlin, Germany-based loyalty program for TV advertising, secured $7m in a Series A round of financing from Ventech, e.ventures, German Startups Group, Brandenburg Ventures, Magix AG as well as other angel investors. It rewards viewers for watching and interacting with TV ads. The app recognizes TV ads from their audio signal and automatically opens a corresponding campaign in the TVSMILES app. The viewer collects virtual currencies, which can be exchanged for rewards and gift cards from known retail brands shops.
TV Show Time, a French “best to-watch” list for tv shows, raised €500k in seed funding from some angels in 2013. Founded in 2011 by Antonio Mendes Pinto and Talal Mazroui, TVShow Time offers a web and mobile app (iOS) to track tv shows, get free news, air dates and trailers.
Startups are also moving on to allow industry players to analyze data. It is the case of TVbeat, a London, UK-based startup that provides real-time television ratings, which secured $2m funding from Episode 1 and Credo Ventures. Led by Robert Farazin, founder, the company develops a big data, real-time TV analytics solution that uses live data from connected set top boxes and other connected devices, for pay TV operators, broadcasters, agencies and advertisers to turn customer interactions into actionable insights across any pay TV platform, including cable, satellite, VOD and OTT as well as IPTV.
Rayneer.tv, a Zurich, Switzerland-based personalized music television startup, raised $2.2m in Series A funding in October 2013. Founded in 2011 by OIiver Flueckiger (CEO) and Yannick Koechlin (CTO), the company has developed a platform that analyzes music preferences and socio-demographic information of users and their friends through social networks and provides a personalized music TV channel via mobile app.
A boost to the sector can be given by the recent acquisition of Bristol, UK-based SecondSync, a company that built a suite of software tools for advertisers and broadcasters to measure their impact their on social media, by Twitter (read here).
In my personal opinion, it can take some time but social activity has a certain impact on success of TV: It drives audiences back, increases engagement, attract audiences, and has the potential to increase ad revenue. Venture capitalists will follow!