The Strategy Behind Social TV Games: Is It Worth It?
How far is Social TV willing to go? Last year, Game of Thrones let you decapitate your friends. This year, cable TV favorite, Breaking Bad will blow your face off.
Social TV games are no longer seen as rare gimmicks, but increasingly essential parts of a broader social TV strategy.
Although there are still plenty of attention-grabbing short-term stabs at the viral potential, the current crop of social TV games are looking toward dedicated game developers to build a more dependably engaged viewership.
Starz’ Boss for example, hired viral veterans BLT & Associates to create an unprecedented level of integration with a simple but effective Facebook app.
The videos are personalized and entertaining enough to drive users to share with their friends while creating an interest in Boss and expanding the shows fan base.
And innovative social TV gaming start-ups such as Playjam and Crowdstar have recently received $5 and $23 million (respectively) investment capital from none other than the game industry’s biggest names.
There seems to be some proof of this attack vector in the ratings. Shows that created and marketed social TV games were able to reach new heights, or at least beat the lurking threat of cancellation.
● The History channel’s Top Shot (Facebook and web app) : A classic FPS for the casual gamer brought plenty of engagement. The show struggled each season with modest growth, but remains viable enough to go into season five this year.
● NHL PrePlay (app — iOS, Android in development) : Sports fans love fantasy sports apps. And after a lackluster ratings performance last season (including the worst Stanley Cup viewership since 2005), the 2012 opener broke ratings records.
These are simply a couple of the examples of the many social TV games that debuted last year. The games were typically accompanied by some minor promotion of their own, via television ads, online media news, and network and show social feeds.
Tracking the success of the game’s promotions should be as easy as seeing how many users played — and shared — the games.
But while initiatives such as Bravo’s Play Live debut may be widely heralded across various media channels, there is scant follow-up data from any source on how much of a part the game (or any other individual piece of the overall social strategy), played in the show’s ratings growth.
The comprehensive and integrated approach that Psych took allowed USA Network to share specific measurement data about the success of the campaign (#HashtagKiller also earned an Emmy award), but Psych was a ratings success from the start.
Was the show popular because of the game, or the game popular because of the show?
This leads back to the recurring issue of a lack of truly meaningful shared metrics. We know that a broad social strategy is important, perhaps even essential for the future of TV itself.
We know that classic online data (pageviews, click-throughs, conversion rates) is now a far lesser consideration than more dynamic and monitoring-intensive social engagement variables such as posts, likes, sign-ins, and registrations; which we can monitor very nicely in real-time, and correlate directly to key events in the show.
We’re more or less confident that social TV games create buzz, and buzz creates engagement, and engagement is social TV’s central goal.
Yet there is no reliable data to answer the crucial question: does a social TV game truly return on investment?
Analysts such as Bluefin and Trendrr are competing to become the “Nielsen of the Social Age,” hoping to provide widely-trusted data on the proportional relationship of a strategy’s success.
Granted, it’s a well-known secret that the classic correlation between viewership ratings and revenue has been more of an educated guess than a consistently reliable metric — but it was accurate enough to become accepted by both sides of the revenue generation equation.
It remains to be seen which (if any) of the competing engagement measurements will become standardized and dependable enough to serve equally well as “success currency.”
Links & Insights
Read more about the Game of Thrones game on fastcocreate.com
Visit the Go FrING Yourself app.
What’s your Price for Power? View the Boss Facebook app here.
Read more about the Top Shot social TV game on lostremote.com
The NHL allowed viewers to predict the action on the ice and engage in real time.
Read more about Bravo’s Play Live efforts.
Get more social tv insights at Cable TV blog.
What About You?
What do you expect from Social TV Games? I’d love to discuss it with you in the comments below.
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About the Author
Emiah Gardner is the entertainment editor for the Cable TV blog. Follow her on Twitter via @EmiahGarner.
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