Facebook’s Shazam-style TV listening tool could win broadcaster ad spend

Both Facebook and Twitter have long touted their platforms as complementary to TV, but the former social network’s launch of a new tool that commandeers the microphone in users’ smartphones to listen to what they are watching could prove a lucrative data asset that will help wrestle more broadcasters’ budgets over to the platform.

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Countless research studies point to the fact that UK consumers are using their mobiles and tablets whilst watching TV. The Mobile Entertainment Forum’s recently published 13-country insight report found two thirds (65 per cent) of consumers are using their mobiles whilst consuming media on a second screen,

It’s clear people love to talk about telly on social networks. There were more than 24.9 million tweets during this year’s Superbowl, while Facebook said there were more than 54 million mentions of the game on its platform last year.

Twitter and Facebook have also made various in-roads to prove that they can serve as useful TV discovery tools. Last year Twitter acquired social TV analytics firm Bluefin Labs and in January Facebook announced a partnership with UK-based social TV data analytics company SecondSync, as both social networks look to understand how they impact TV viewing. 

Both have also commissioned studies conducted by various research houses including MillwardBrown, Kantar and Nielsen to quantify their effect on TV advertising.  

But despite all these efforts, broadcasters are still craving more from the social platforms.

Earlier this month I asked Channel 4’s marketing and communications director Dan Brooke to name the one single thing that would make the broadcaster spend more on Twitter and Facebook.

He said that if Twitter or Facebook could extrapolate the link between people talking about TV on their platforms to a rise in viewing figures, Channel 4 would immediately increase its social advertising budget.

Evidence pointing towards that direction to date has been too case study-led; past tense meanders at particular highlights from specific programmes or ad campaigns. Broadcasters are on the hunt for real-time (or at least close to it) data that can accurately track viewer journeys on their own specific channels.

Earlier this week Facebook revealed it is introducing a new feature that will use the microphone in users’ smartphones to identify what song is playing or film or programme is on TV when they are composing a status update. Facebook says the idea is to facilitate easier sharing and that while it has not been created for advertising purposes, it is exploring the opportunities the new feature offers.

While the feature is opt-in and Facebook says it will not store any background sound, the new Shazam-style tool could offer the social network with lucrative insights on users’ watching and listening habits, which it could – on an anonymised basis to respect users’ privacy concerns – share back to broadcasters and TV advertisers.

Potential insights could include the dips in viewing when audiences choose to look away from the TV screen, the demographics of audiences and the tool could encourage more people to write about the shows and ads they are watching, aiding discovery.

Broadcasters have quickly adapted to the second screening trend. Almost every programme has an associated hashtag or Facebook page. Facebook’s new listening tool could encourage them to adopt more of its paid-for features too.

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