There's a huge trend dominating the floor at CESthis year, and it's not a new gadget.
It's social media.
Facebook and Twitter logos seem to be everywhere you turn, on connected TV, video game consoles, and of course mobile devices. Facebook and Twitter don't have a presence here themselves, but it's clear they're considered a must-have for the next generation of technology and media distribution.
People want to chatter with their friends about what they're watching, reading, and listening to. So the more social the content experience, the more they'll consume, and the more media for content and distribution companies. If consumers talk with their friends about content, the more engaged they are, which means more time looking at ads, and a higher likelihood that they'll buy subscriptions or merchandise. The idea is that consumer engagement should equal profits.
That's what Cisco is counting on. It's expanding a small business unit called "Eos" which sets up and runs social media websites around content for fans. It launched the business last year with Warner Music and now runs 21 websites for their bands. Yesterday it announced it's first TV deal, with Travel Channel, as well as with two smaller music labels. The idea is that fans go to these websites Eos runs, and can access all the information about the band, from Twitter feeds to Facebook updates. But it goes a couple steps beyond MySpace (NWS), by allowing the band to profit from the ads on the site, and sell concert tickets and merchandise.
We got a preview of Yahoo's connected TV widgets, which will be accessible on five million TVs and devices by halfway through this year. And of course, Twitter and Facebook apps are prominent, so users can interact with their friends about what they're watching.
And Microsoft's XBox Live, which distributes on-demand content through the gaming console, calls itself the "largest social network on your TV." It allows you to access Twitter and Facebook while gaming or watching video.
Even mobile TV service MobiTV makes a social element front and center. In its new applications, like an NBA video app for the iPhone, users can share clips with friends or Tweet about scores without ever leaving the mobile platform.
Recommendations on Facebook and Twitter are remarkably powerful free advertising and now movie studios are working to leverage social media as a marketing tool. We saw it with Paramount's "Paranormal Activity" viral Twitter campaign. And the more gadgets and software that feature Facebook and Twitter, the more powerful they'll be.
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