Toby Gunton, chief digital officer, WCRS
Toby Gunton, chief digital officer, WCRS
A view from Toby Gunton

Think BR: Connected TV uncovered

What are the opportunities for brands wanting to get involved with connected TV, asks Toby Gunton, chief digital officer, WCRS.

I recently took part in Engine’s Connected TV event alongside BBC Newswatch presenter Ray Snoddy, Zeebox co-founder Ernesto Schmitt, Google’s Tom Moore and Sky’s Gareth Capon.

While it’s clear that connected TV is fast becoming a hot topic for brands, just how hot was demonstrated by the turnout - with standing room only and the best part of 150 people turned out for an 8:30am start.

What everyone was there to hear was what connected TV means for consumers and brands. After a brief introduction from Ray, my five minutes was all about setting the scene.

Connected TV is a big deal. It’s changing where and when you get your TV, what type of content you watch, how you interact with that content, which adverts you see, how much brands know about you and will fundamentally change your relationship with TV providers.

I put forward what we see as the opportunities for brands in the form of The four Cs of Connected TV:

  1. Companion - the opportunity to build or work with existing second screen experiences to augment the TV viewing experience. 
  2. Create - the opportunity to create content, apps and games. 
  3. Curate - the opportunity to help consumers make sense of the overwhelming choice of content connected TV offers. 
  4. Connect - the opportunity to use data to create truly relevant and targeted messages and advertising.

Ernesto Schmitt was next to take to the stage and soon captured the room’s attention with the story of Zeebox’s incredible rise to 250,000 users in a matter of weeks.

He told us how Zeebox continues to grow at an incredible rate and its mix of layering social activity, relevant content and transactional opportunities over your television experience is pretty compelling, both for consumers and brands.

For me the one question that remains is the limitations of Zeebox when it comes to on demand or recorded content. The proposition is built around appointment viewing; the Britain’s Got Talents and major sports fixtures of this world, where watching live is everything.

While Ray pointed out the slow growth of on-demand viewing, Ernesto’s point that Zeebox was the biggest revolution in TV since the PVR served to remind me of just that. PVRs are huge, and their use means that audiences are increasingly watching content out of synch with their friends. And out of synch with Zeebox.

Despite that, the general concensus was that second screens are likely to offer some of the best opportunities for brands. They rely solely on the technology many of us already have (smart phones or tablets) and take advantage of recognised behaviours - 87% of Facebook users have posted while watching TV, and often about what they’re watching.

The potential failings of smart TVs were also spelt out in detail. The fragmented eco-system that forces developers to build bespoke apps for every smart-TV manufacturer’s platform makes it unnecessarily complex and costly. And despite there being more smart TVs in the UK than iPads, the fact that so few of them are actually connected to the internet further suggests it won’t be an easy ride for the big TV manufacturers.

The recent news that Xbox is the number one video player in the US also shows the part that smart boxes are playing, and the challenge that Boxee and Apple TV will face from Microsoft.

So the conclusion about what this means for brands? The panel all agreed, it’s time not to watch and wait, but test and learn.

Toby Gunton, chief digital officer, WCRS