It is undeniable that the way users are watching television has continually been evolving over the past few years.   77% of people use their computer while watching TV, and many are even watching their shows directly online (Huff Post Tech).  The use of online television platforms and video service providers such as Hulu and Netflix continues to increase, as does the use of these channels across mobile devices as well.  Increased mobile viewership, as well as a growing trend in multitasking TV viewers has led companies to search for new ways to optimize video monetization.  Viewer engagement has emerged as a potential gold mine for video monetization, by responding to the ever-changing attention span of the consumer and the constant drive towards connecting through technology.


Incorporation of Social TV


Social TV has been around to some extent for quite a while now, especially across social networks such as Twitter and Facebook.  Shows such as American Idol are constantly engaging viewers with hashtags relating to that week’s show and voting through text messaging, while sports channels also use the network to post play-by-play updates and encourage fans to discuss the game as it happens.  Viewers watching shows online can “check in” about the shows they’re watching, and even automatically incorporate these updates into their Facebook status (especially when using channels such as Hulu that are linked to their Facebook account).  Social TV is meant to enhance a viewer’s experience, and really engage them with the content they are watching.


Implementation of the Second Screen


With the success of social networks for Social TV, another logical step for viewer engagement has been the development of apps related to the viewing experience.  These apps are often accessed using a “Second Screen”– a term coined for the use a second device to accompany a viewing experience.  Consumers can track their March Madness bracket and see how their competitors are doing through the ESPN Bracket Bound app, a Game of Thrones app was released to keep track of characters, and multitudes of other TV-accompanying apps have been released over the past few years.  This is where monetization comes in.  While a lot of these apps are free (albeit accompanied by sponsored ads in order to monetize), many are also bought from an app store, or have an option to upgrade in order to gain access to more features, which brings an influx of revenue as well.


User Engagement and Social Commerce


The use of Social TV and Second Screen methods are a way to enhance viewer engagement with the end goal of increased revenue.  One of the ways user engagement can accomplish this is by fostering social commerce.  Especially with online TV viewing, one of the most popular methods of video monetization is through ads before, during, or after a video, with pre-roll “dominating” this group (mediacamp).  Mobile video revenue is predicted to reach over $16 billion by 2014, so how can advertisers capitalize on this mobile viewership?


    • Choose Your Own Adventure: Hulu has been successful in melding the worlds of video monetization and user engagement by allowing users to choose their own commercial experience.  At the start of their chosen television program, they are asked to choose between two or three commercial experiences, and can also say whether a given ad is relevant to them or not.  This way Hulu can more efficiently identify how to market sponsors to their audience, therefore increasing sponsor’s revenue while also allowing the viewer to actively engage in their commerce experience.  A consumer is more likely to purchase a product chosen they have chosen to watch a commercial for than one that has nothing to do with their lifestyle.



    • Incentivize: Loyalty programs are another way to drive commerce through user engagement.  Many television shows, whether online or traditionally viewed, are rewarding viewers for both watching and engaging with content (Gartner).  Through these programs, television shows can collect customer data to determine which ads will best reach target audience, and therefore lead to better a higher success rate amongst the show’s sponsors and therefore a more optimized video monetization strategy (Social Annex).



In the emerging cross-platform environment, television shows can optimize their video monetization by giving users the option to interact with a show through social engagement (Social TV) or accompanying content (Second Screen).  In the multi-device modern era, users connect to content through engagement, to the extent where they are often willing to pay for that experience.  As engagement continues to become intertwined with television viewing, what will be the next step for capitalizing upon the “user experience?”


By Jess Spar