Motorola SocialTV wants to know what you’re watching

It’s no secret that the development of mobile and portable Internet technology has made watching television a far less passive experience for many Americans than it was in years past. Instead of plonking on the couch and maybe doing a little channel surfing during commercials, many people are now watching TV with a notebook, tablet, or phone in hand, multitasking or chatting with their friends via social networks about whatever they might be watching. (Or, in the case of very special musical episodes of prime-time medical drama, perhaps mocking would be a better description.)

Motorola SocialTV

The problem with this setup, of course, is that the notebook, tablet, or phone in a TV viewer’s hands doesn’t have any direct knowledge of what’s actually on the television—and to marketers, this is a huge missed opportunity. So Motorola has launched SocialTV, which leverages Motorola’s Medios application layer to tie the two together. With SocialTV, users will be able to tweet with their friends in real time about what their watching—because their devices will already know what they’re watching and will be able to pull all the necessary bits together. SocialTV will be able to pull in social media feeds about the current television content, as well as provide companion content, whether that be games, special offers, live chat, or (of course) targeted advertising.

The idea is to make the “companion screen” on a TV watcher’s secondary device provide a more personalized entertainment experience…and that should translate to greater customer loyalty and satisfaction.

“In addition to streamlining and enhancing the subscriber’s interaction with their social network,” Motorola writes, “the SocialTV Companion Service offers a social loyalty program that lets subscribers ear virtual currency by checking into shows, taking related quizzes, and posting their opinion about the shows they are watching. Providers have the ability to set the level of achievement, loyalty status, and the rewards subscribers can earn.”

Motorola touts SocialTV as device-agnostic technology that should work with any Internet-capable tablet, smartphone, or computer with an HTML5-capable browser.

SocialTV is plainly engineered as a technology to increase subscriber engagement with television shows and generate “social media buzz” for programming—all of which boosts ad revenue. The real question is whether television watchers—a notoriously fickle bunch—will be content to take quizzes, earn “virtual currency,” and basically function as free promotional tools for shows. Motorola also does not address he potential bugaboo with what Motorola and providers are doing with all the data they accumulate about users’ viewing habits. Mark Zuckerberg may believe privacy isn’t a social norm, but many consumers seem to disagree.