With the Facebook IPO looming, Silicon Valley and Wall Street are seeing dollar signs. But apart from minting new tech millionaires, a publicly traded Facebook will also redefine Internet television and social TV.
During his pre-IPO roadshow, CEO Mark Zuckerberg told potential investors that in addition to improving Facebook's mobile presence, the company will focus more on social TV. Smithsonian.com
Some go so far as to suggest that Facebook could actually save TV. One is Nick Thomas, an analyst for London-based Informa Telecoms and Media. He acknowledges that, at the moment, Facebook seems more threat than boon because research shows more and more people are actually focusing on their small screens–laptops, tablets, smart phones–while occasionally looking up at the big screen.
A publicly traded Facebook will have to answer to shareholders and maximize revenue. Apart from selling ads, monetizing and delivering social TV to multiple devices should be a promising source of revenue for the Menlo Park firm.
Of course, we don't know any specific plans for Facebook and social TV yet. But we've already seen what's possible. Video and Facebook have proven to be a very successful combination. About 150 years worth of YouTube videos are watched everyday on Facebook.
Warner Brothers, Miramax
and Lions Gate Entertainment all have apps that let Facebook users watch, purchase and rent movies. Advanced social features like group chat and social sharing offer new ways to watch TV online, and publishers can benefit from unique payment options like Facebook credits.
Given Facebook’s stockpile of personal and social data, there's plenty of potential to match viewers with the content they like. Social Electronic Program Guides (EPG) can help viewers discover new movies and shows. That social recommendation aspect is extremely powerful, and the reason why Netflix integrated its full-video player into Facebook (although this move has not been instituted in the U.S. yet due to an antiquated video-rental privacy law that prohibits sharing rental information with the public). Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said himself that even though the streaming service’s algorithm consistently suggests he watch the show "Breaking Bad," he finally relented after a friend's recommendation. "Watching content because my friend is [watching] trumps the algorithm," he said at Facebook’s F8 conference
One thing we do know for sure is that social TV is steadily becoming more mainstream. Next week, the first Social TV World Summit
will take place in London, and is expected to attract execs of TV startups, established media companies, networks and service providers.
Stay tuned to see how the Facebook IPO impacts the way we watch, share and discover TV shows and movies.