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An inside look at social TV in France

After taking an inside look at social TV in Brazil and Portugal, it’s time to turn our attention to France. Orange is one of France’s biggest cable providers, serving five million subscribers through its IPTV and satellite TV network – a 15.8% increase over last year. Leading this charge is Nicolas Bry, a Senior VP at Orange responsible for the company’s Blended TV product. According to Bry, Blended TV is “designed as a platform accessible to others trough its API,” and is “embedded in a dozen of Orange services after only one year. Orange apps welcome and display social buzz in an environment familiar to the end-user, without the need to install a new app, and over multiple screens: mobile, TV, tablet, PC.”

We recently spoke with Bry about Blended TV, social TV in France, and what the industry will look like in 2020:

Lost Remote: What is Blended TV and how will it benefit consumers?
Nicolas Bry: While we watch, we tweet! Last Super Bowl just beat a new record. Besides, even more users find value in ‘listening’ to the social conversation.

But live tweets are not always easy to read, and social networks can be quite noisy. Blended TV is Orange’s social buzz platform, dedicated to sorting real-time social conversations according to specific entertainment topics: live tv programs for social TV, catch-up TV, movies in theater, VoD, and sports competitions. Blended TV makes comprehensible social buzz, turning content discovery into a pleasurable experience for the viewer.

Designed as a platform accessible to others trough its API, Blended TV is embedded in a dozen of Orange services after only one year. Orange apps welcome and display social buzz in an environment familiar to the end-user, without the need to install a new app, and over multiple screens: mobile, TV, tablet, PC.

LR: Describe social TV in France - how is similar and different to the rest of the world?  
Bry: Social TV got traction in France in 2012. As in the US, we beat some tweeting records (with proportional figures to France’s population, which is 5 times lower than the US population): social activity surrounding the best shows now reaches over 100k tweets. TF1, the main TV channel in terms of audience, drove 13 millions tweets last year around its programming.

Channels utilize various social TV strategies:

- Companion apps on tablet and smartphones: myTF1 ‘Connect’ combines live TV, replay TV, live tweets and instant replay (short video sharing) for the show ‘The Voice’; M6 ‘Devant ma TV’ pushes information synchronized with the program broadcasted, and offers a range of ways to interact (voting, polling, Live tweets); Canal+ Football lets you select your camera angle, rate a player, and interact with other viewers of the game.
- Official hashtags tend to be more frequently displayed on the TV screen, presenters and participants on stage live tweet during the shows, and curation teams select the best tweets to display on air                                                                                                                                      – Transmedia experiences are designed by creative teams from Arte, France Télévisions, Canal+, linking the first screen and the second screen with enriched narratives.

It’s interesting to note as well, that recent channels like D8 and NRJ12 are quite successful social TV examples, making proportionally more impact on social than their actual audience: NRJ12 ‘Star Academy’ and D8 ‘Nouvelle Star’, both music reality shows, generated 318,000 and 145,000 tweets, respectively, in January 2013.

LR: What social TV apps or websites are most popular among French consumers?                                           
Bry: Besides channel initiatives, social platforms that come to mind include:
Devant La Télé, a pioneer of social TV, presents a web site dedicated to live tweets;

- TV Tweet, is more BtoB oriented by the mean of its API;

Programme TV d’Orange, widely used by Orange mobile customers, focuses on content discovery and directs you to most commented TV program in real-time;
TV check is the leading platform in social gaming around TV;

LR: What will social TV and the television experience as a whole look like in the year 2020?
Bry: We realize that TV keeps moving toward more interactivity, more flexibility of use, and enriched experiences during live shows. This trend won’t stop. Actually, in 8 years time, it will be made stronger by the extending capabilities of smartphones & tablets, powerful mobile network (4G LTE today, 6G in 2020?) and proliferation of connected screens. Wall screens (NDS Surfaces) or car windows (Woo) are absolutely breath taking. To travel across these new types of screens, we need a landmark: mobile has strong assets to be that companion. Being personal, ultra-portable and always-connected, mobile is designed to be the backbone of our future media experiences.

LR: What are the most popular shows in France that people interact with on social?            
Bry: The most popular shows are the music shows I’ve mentioned. Football games, political debates, and serial soaps, also attract quite a lot of tweets. One might say these are programs open to ‘interpassivity’, meaning there are windows to interact and switch from the passive lean back to an active attitude: commenting, reading, and voting.

The most commented-on show last year was the Miss France Election, typically a show that invites comments: it sparked over 420,000 tweets. In fact, the record was recently beaten in early 2013 with the NRJ Music Awards, broadcasted on two channels, TF1 and NRJ, driving 1.45 million tweets.

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