At NAB vendors urge broadcasters to get social

At the NAB Show in Las Vegas this week, a wide variety of broadcast graphics equipment vendors are offering technology that tightly links television programming to social media sites, and vice versa. The idea, which is in line with the NAB’s “The Content Shift” theme this year, is that stations can get closer to their viewers and somehow generate new revenue from a “second screen” application in which viewers and their online friends interact and follow along with a particular TV show or local newscast.

However, while nearly everyone is talking about social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and BrightCove, a “white label” tool used by broadcasters) in one form or another, and many stations are indeed featuring live tweets on air from viewers responding to on-air stories at some point in their newscasts or local programs, the process for doing so is far from easy and not without extra cost.

David Ross, president and CEO of Ross Video referred to the current state of social media at local stations as the “wild west,” requiring extra manpower to coordinate and post live tweets.

“[Social media] is the ‘Holy Grail’ for broadcasters right now,” he said. “Our job is to help them use this largely untapped resource and grow their audience. Everyone I talk to wants to do it, they just don’t know exactly how, without throwing more resources at it. That’s not a viable solution for many stations.”

Ross Video has introduced a software-based social media management product called Inception, which works in tandem with Ross’ OverDrive production technology to help automate the process. It also includes the ability to schedule “call to action” Twitter and Facebook messages to coincide with the start of a news program and encourage viewers to watch.

Inception provides options to create, schedule and manage media content in newsrooms and promotions departments. It’s used to publish social media and video content on-demand, when scheduled or driven by live broadcasts.

Chryon also introduced a product, called Engage, to help stations integrate live viewer discussions into their mainstream programs. The company’s CEO Michael Wellesley-Wesley called social media “a marriage made in heaven” for broadcasters, if done correctly. Rich call-to-action graphics, info-graphics, and tickers can be generated automatically using social and poll data.

Engage works as an add-on to Chyron’s existing BlueNet platform and Camio graphics engine. The company has entered into a partnership with ConnecTV, a specialist in interactive TV applications that is working with the 10 independent station owners that make up the Pearl venture of some 200 stations targeting mobile DTV and other forms of social media interaction. Chyron also introduced a product called Shout that acts as a social media editor and is used to censor Twitter feeds before they go on air.

“This is about engaging customers in real time, which has never been done before,” said Stacy Jolina, the chief marketing officer at ConnecTV, in Emeryville, Calif.). He added that his company has prepared a series of 30-second commercials that will begin airing on June 1st to introduce the ConnecTV application to viewers in the various markets that the Pearl Group serves.

ConnecTV’s social platform lets users instantly sync on their iPad, Mac, or PC (Android devices and smart phones coming soon) with whatever show they are watching on television. ConnecTV viewers instantly see what their friends are watching and share their favorite TV moments with a single touch. The company said that seamless social integration enables viewers to share every “Did you see that!” television moment from sports, news, drama, and reality programming — live or time-shifted — in a unique companion viewing experience.

Wellesley-Wesley explained that Chyron graphics systems enable template-based creation of rich real-time 3D graphics, and the ConnecTV app keeps creation of second-screen elements simple. As a result, broadcasters using both of these solutions via the new Engage platform can produce dynamic, engaging, and complementary content for both the first screen and second screen, and without hiring specialized staff.

Two other companies, Vibes (social media marketing) and Mass Relevance (which manages the social media metadata to make the messages appear on screen automatically), have also joined with Chyron to facilitate this automated social media workflow.

“Engage offers easy access to tools from top companies working in second screen environments,” Wellesley-Wesley said. “By building these technologies into the TV production workflow, Engage gives artists and producers the means to take content such as Twitter feeds, polls, text messages, and other viewer-generated data to air within their live broadcasts.”

Avid is showing a new Multi-platform distribution (MPD) solution to address the demands of viewers that, Avid says, are driving requirements for multi-screen media consumption. With content increasingly viewed through a variety of TV, online, social, and mobile channels, producers need the ability to distribute their media across multiple platforms with greater ease, speed, and efficiency.

Avid’s MPD solution streamlines and enhances the process for journalists, producers and video editors who are creating and distributing content across multiple platforms. Leveraging Avid’s Interplay and iNEWS products, this solution intelligently orchestrates the flow of assets and metadata through creation, transcode, and then delivery to web content management systems, online video platforms, and social media platforms. The solution uses existing Interplay and iNEWS functionality and web services APIs to cost efficiently adapt to a wide range of different customer environments and needs.

Other graphics companies, such as Harris (Inscriber), Vizrt (Viz Media Engine) and Orad are all showing similar technology.

“The market requires solutions that empower media companies to cast a wider net with their content reaching viewers in an anytime, anywhere, any device and on-demand environment while providing agility to content creators such as journalists to work seamlessly through the creation, management and publishing process,” said Mukul Krishna, global director of Digital Media for Frost & Sullivan. “[Currently], such solutions are few and far between.”