Facebook has launched a major new Social TV service.
The Facebook mobile app now has an opt-in feature which can automatically recognise the TV show that a user is viewing and create a status update for them to share with their friends.
The app uses a smartphone’s microphone to listen to the audio from the TV set when a user begins composing a status update. Within a few seconds, it can identify the show and offer an icon that lets the user incorporate the show they are watching.
This integrates the season and episode of the show, a thumbnail image, and a link to the show’s Facebook Page. A comprehensive status update is then ready for the user to send.
At a stroke, Facebook is able to leverage people’s habit of accessing the social network while watching TV, making it as easy as possible to share their favourite shows with their social circle.
This represents a critical advantage in Facebook’s battle with Shazam, Twitter and others to dominate the Social TV sector and associated advertising revenue.
The most popular app with this form of automatic content recognition (ACR) is Shazam. Like the new Facebook service, Shazam can readily identify both music and TV programming.
Shazam claims it is “the fastest way to find out more about the show, the cast, and the music featured in the show.”
However, identifying a show requires an individual to launch the Shazam app on their smartphone. Yet as many people will already be on Facebook while watching TV, they may find it easier to access the show directly via Facebook instead.
Some of the specialist Social TV apps, such as Beamly (formerly Zeebox), have also integrated ACR to help their users to initiate Social TV conversations.
Any advantage that Shazam and the others have enjoyed through using ACR has now been wiped out.
Twitter has no comparable functionality. A user still has to identify what they are watching by typing it into a tweet, typically with a hashtag.
Competition in the Social TV sector has been hotting up, with both BuzzFeed and particularly Tumblr as new entrants, partnering with broadcasters to drive tune-in and to tap Social TV ad revenue.
ACR gives Facebook a considerable advantage over all of them.
Since Facebook’s service can identify live TV, including sports events, it is available in time for the biggest Social TV programming of 2014, the FIFA World Cup.
It also provides the social network with a new form of usage data that it says it will share with broadcasters and studios.
The service is rolling out in the USA first and currently works with programming on 160 channels.
With over a billion Facebook, Twitter and mobile messaging users discussing their TV viewing on second screens, Social TV is crucial for ratings success and advertising effectiveness.
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