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NAB wrap-up: Social features creep into TV production gear

Over a decade ago, Lost Remote was the first blog to cover the National Association of Broadcasters convention — a huge showcase of television technology in Las Vegas — about how the internet was changing the business. This year, we returned to NAB to see how social TV is impacting production, from tech to workflow. Like the late 90s with the internet, it’s still early, but social TV is beginning to make inroads.

“There are so many technology providers here, and the interest in social TV is disproportionate to the innovation,” said Sam Decker, CEO of Mass Relevance. “It’s such a small part of all the real estate and discussions that are happening.” But he said he sees the technical crowd beginning to react to demands from producers who want more social functionality in the production process.

One of the biggest trends is focused on making it easy for producers to integrate social content on-air. Until now, displaying a tweet or a poll has been extremely labor-intensive (put poll on website, tease website from on-air, refresh poll results, create graphic of results, write them into script, drop it into the rundown.) But new partnerships are automating the entire process, tying it to social curation and the second screen.

For example, the TV graphics firm Chyron demonstrated its new Engage platform (which we reported earlier). It interfaces with partners Mass Relevance, ConnecTV, Never.no and Vibes to display live social content on air. In one demonstration (above), Chyron displayed a real-time Mass Relevance Twitter widget that tracked how many #NAB tweets featured the words “social” vs. the word “3D.” (Social was winning, two to one.) Producers could use the same arrangement for real-time hashtag voting over Twitter.

In another demonstration (above), real-time results from a poll on the ConnectTV second-screen app appeared live on the air. I think we’ll see a lot more social integration on local TV in the coming months, thanks to these partnerships — and Chyron hinted at more to come.

Over at competitor Vizrt, which powers graphics for CNN and FOX, social integration was also a new addition. They demonstrated (above) how producers can attach social elements to templates and push them quickly to air (you can also play YouTube clips, show Flickr photos and browse websites live on air.) And in an interesting twist, Vizrt can also automatically Tweet or post Facebook updates when TV promos air, such as, “The Simpsons will begin in 15 minutes….”

As we reported earlier, Never.no demonstrated a social media prompter for TV talent at NAB.

Another emerging area of interest at NAB is automatic content recognition, or as the kids say it, ACR. The folks at the Audible Magic booth had a big smile on their faces, fresh off another deal with a second-screen startup.

Over at the Civolution booth (above), a crowd gathered around demonstration of SyncNow, its ACR solution. Civolution’s Andy Nobbs told us the SyncNow product was drawing the most attention, but few attendees had a good understanding of how to put it into practice. Civolution showed potential applications, from the second-screen to providing automated real-time content on the TV set itself (Google mapping of news stories, suggested apps that related to the content on TV, word clouds, Wikipedia backgrounder, etc.)

But as Decker said, among the massive real estate of NAB — blocks and blocks of exhibits — social TV has a rather minor footprint. But just like the late 90s, we can feel the beginning of a shift to infuse social in just about every TV production product. Our bet is a much bigger showing at NAB 2013.

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