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February 03, 2014

Perspective on TV: Facebook and SecondSync Get Together for Analysis

With the entertainment industry getting progressively more competitive than ever, thanks to the panoply of stations offered by both network and cable/satellite as well as the rapid growth of streaming video sources, getting information about viewer habits has never been so important. To that end, Facebook and SecondSync—a social TV analytics company operating out of the U.K.-have put together a partnership announced by Facebook recently that looks to help use Facebook's massive array of social revelations as a way to boost television's own marketing prowess.

This is actually a fairly big step, as previously, Facebook didn't make social TV data available to anyone outside the company, and by all reports, SecondSync will not be letting any grass grow under this new data, either. The initial results of the combination will be made known in just under two weeks, as SecondSync releases a white paper called “Watching with Friends” to sum up the nature of Facebook's involvement with television. “Watching with Friends” is reportedly set to cover not only United States television, but also carry on into both Australia and the U.K.

Andy Littledale, SecondSync's managing director, referred to the partnership as “ opportunity to provide an additional perspective on social TV behavior that draws on Facebook's rich demographics and broad reach” in a statement, and indeed, most already knew that Facebook had massive amounts of data on this field. But the question was simply how to get that information out to those who could use it in a form that it could be used in the first place, and in a fashion that would still protect user privacy.

Indeed, Facebook is absolutely swimming in data on most any topic one cares to name, from retail outlets of all stripes to preferred brand data and well beyond, the kind of marketing stockpile that makes the Helm's Deep treasure from the Hobbit movies look like a piggy bank. The question, of course, is how to release that data in a fashion that doesn't have everyone pull into a collective shell and refuse to provide that information any more? Facebook's SecondSync partnership may provide that necessary fig leaf, allowing its new partner to compile, aggregate, and lend anonymity to the data in question, allowing for important conclusions to be drawn without violating any individual's privacy in the process.

This is extremely valuable data, and networks are likely eager to get hands on it to figure out what people think about current shows as well as derive potential directions for new shows as well. With steadily more content sources—and steadily more content—emerging, having a handle on what kind of content viewers want to see is a powerful tool. Knowing what viewers are more likely to engage with, keep watching, and thus be receptive to advertising for is the kind of thing that makes—or breaks—content providers, so this development may be a big help indeed.

Social media's connection to television is well-known and highly sought after—Twitter recently showed what kind of impact it can have on ratings--but putting that data to use has been a difficult proposition at best. Facebook may well have found just the tool to make that data available, and in so doing, opened the floodgates of other brands looking for powerful marketing data.

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

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