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Once the dust of social TV hype settles, content recommendation will be changed forever. Pt II

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In the second part of two, Ben Schwarz, CEO, CTOi Consulting, and Nicolas Bry, Senior VP, Orange Vallee, continue their detailed analysis of how to harness content discovery and social TV, and introduce the concept of Blended TV.


Q: Nicolas, to design your “social TV intelligence” engine, called Blended TV, where did you look for innovative inspiration?

Nicolas Bry: We laid our design on 3 pillars: belief, metaphor, and model following Prof. Nonaka’s framework.

•    Belief = our starting point was the belief that there is great value in social conversations around TV, but that this value is difficult to capture with the tools available to us, especially for non frequent users. Our idea was to filter out the noise so as to enable content discovery in real-time, by providing TV buzz and clean content trends, in-depth conversations related to a program, social TV computed data and metrics.

•    Metaphor = Our metaphor was that of a filter, or a funnel.

•    Model = from the outset, we based our approach on collaborative design. Rather than completing an end-user application, we focus our innovation endeavor on a social TV component, an underlying enabling technology, which could be embedded in various end-user applications and devices, letting others make value out of our data and build services on top of our platform through an API.

This component, called Blended TV, is a semantic engine scanning social conversations, harnessing comments and filtering them. It was developed within an open innovation  framework: we partnered with a social media intelligence specialist called Mesagraph and benefited from the precious overview of designer Jean-Louis Frechin from NoDesign. We also cooperated with Social TV consultants (Thibault Celier @kindoftv, Marc-Emmanuel Foucart), harnessed accurate insights  (@gip89@advid@laouffir) and leveraged on HTML5 and interactive video skills from Djingle.

Our bet starts to win-back: developed in very short time, Blended TV is currently used or in the process of being used by various applications within Orange (Orange Sports web portal, Rendez-Vous TV / Le Mag TV companion app, Roland Garros app, Orange France web portal), and outside Orange (Broadcasters, TV metrics provider, TV guide).
Q: Nicolas, why is there so much buzz about the rise of Social TV?

Nicolas Bry: Social TV challenges the paradigm of  TV ratings:

•    Nielsen has analyzed the relationship between social media buzz and TV ratings. It has shown “significant relationship throughout a TV show’s season among all age groups, with the strongest correlation among younger demos (people aged 12-17 and 18-34), and a slightly stronger overall correlation for women compared to men”.

•    Social media is a great measure of audience engagement, viewers engaging to become content ambassadors on online media, before, during, and after the show is aired; “in particular, 27-33 year-old women on Facebook are the most active sharers, and drive the highest conversion rates”!

•    Social recommendations encourage interactivity, meaning stickiness to a program, and provide strong user behavior data, that can further processed to target users for advertising purpose and specific offerings.

Some predict an even stronger impact, amending the story telling:

•   Viewers’ engagement around TV shows will become so massive that it will start undermining the current ways of creating shows and become the main driver for new TV content” claims Anne-Marie Roussel, expert in Social TV at Sharp in Silicon Valley.

•   It’s a major issue for broadcasters and networks. “The future isn’t either traditional or digital: it’s a feedback loop between the two. Television fans want to get involved and be counted. It’s how creative we are in engaging those fans – and keeping them connected – that will determine how potent and profitable we will be in the future.” says Kevin Reilly, President of Entertainment, Fox Broadcasting.

•   “Content will then be created with social interaction in mind”, adds Anne-Marie, “the audience will be able to interact with the storyline”. Voting online for some game shows, and affecting the outcome of the show is just a start: welcome to the era of Transmedia!

Q: Is to possible to merge recommendations from dedicated engines and social media? What is the challenge to meet success from a customer point of view?

Nicolas Bry: The main challenge and the main objective of this endeavor remain relevancy and simplicity. Mixing engine-based and social-media recommendation should bring the best of both worlds to end-users. But we’ll have to respect the specific cultures of each world to provide a straightforward and accurate suggestion.

Furthermore, consumers use a variety of sources to discover what’s personally relevant. Richard Edelman distinguishes 4 main spheres in “Media Cloverleaf”:

I believe the user interface has to screen the complexity of the engine, reflected in the various spheres, and the range of data that could be processed by a recommendation tool, such as program metadata and consumer behavior.

Cory Bergman, founder of Lostremote, a web site dedicated to social TV, speaks of “a smart social guide” displaying 4 kinds of recommendations :

1.    New episodes of shows you customarily watch;
2.    Current shows your friends enjoy;
3.    Trending shows across the larger population;
4.    What your friends are watching now.

Maybe like the four sides of a cube?

I also see social curation as creating an opportunity for a second loop for recommendation, exposing the suggestion to the social network of the user, and starting viralization of the content service … so lots to explore and I certainly think it’s worth testing and iterating!


Ben Schwarz: All the recommendation engine vendors already claim to be implementing social recommendation, but much of that is vaporware so I agree with you Nicolas that there is an exciting opportunity for experimentation. Social TV will probably change the TV landscape forever. However, I don’t yet know if it’s just another feature, albeit an important one, or a real paradigm changing disruption. Issues remaining include the fact that I simply don’t want to broadcast all of what I watch to my whole social network, so I’d say that two key challenges and success criteria will include a seamless integration, and a very powerful filtering mechanism.

“Who is in front of the TV?” has proven to be an obstacle that many recommendation solutions couldn’t satisfactorily overcome. Social TV has a great side effect: it brings personal second screens into the living room.
The 50 competing apps you mentioned at the beginning of our discussion Nicolas, are all in the early hype phase. But even if they never truly deliver on their fantastic promises of a new social TV paradigm, they will at least enable plain-vanilla recommendation to at last work fully i.e. personally.


About the authors:

Benjamin Schwarz has over 20 years of international experience in consulting and Telco & Media organisations. He is recognized as a world-class industry expert in converging media, especially IPTV and innovation.

In August 2008 Benjamin created “CTO innovation Consulting” bringing his unique expertise to Content owners, Technology companies and network Operators and is now involved in many projects including TV business modelling and deployment, advertising, hybrid and “Over-the-top” content delivery and quality of experience management.

He spent 8 years with Orange, whom he joined in 2001. Benjamin started as a manager within Orange Labs focusing on video, search and other technologies. In 2004 he joined the Content division running international music download then IPTV deployments in Europe (France, Poland, Spain, UK), Africa (Senegal) & Mauritius. In that role he was often spokesman for Orange.

In 2000 Benjamin was CTO of Net4Music, a digital sheet music Internet start-up. Previously he spent 10 years in IT with Logica-CMG and fresh out of university he joined the ‘World Press Centre’ in 1989.

Benjamin is a regular speaker at major events and blogs on several industry leading sites as well as his on own site @ www.ctoic.net. He is Paris based and has a BSc from King’s College London in Computer science and completed an executive MBA within INSEAD. Email: bs@ctoic.net


Nicolas Bry.  Nicolas is a senior VP at Orange Vallée, an Orange entity dedicated to rapid innovation. Forward thinker, he created international digital BU, at executive committee level, with a focus on interactive and social TV. Graduate from Engineering School Supélec, he completed an Executive Master at HEC Business School, and a professional thesis on “rapid innovation” in 2010. He bloggs on nbry.wordpress.com and has been named #26 innovation blogger of 2011 by InnovationExcellence.

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