Cablevision, one of the major cable providers in the nation, is developing a social TV technology that will allow customers to talk to each other via voice or video chats while watching programming.
“The system enables a viewer to find friends, or other like-minded viewers not acquainted with the viewer, for virtual communal viewing parties,” Cablevision stated in their patent application, which is officially titled as “Virtual Communal Television Viewing.”
As one of the pioneering cable companies to offer interactive programming and advertising to subscribers, Cablevision describes how the new technology would allow subscribers to access the social TV platform on multiple devices, such as cable set-tops, gaming consoles, PCs, laptops, smartphones and tablet computers. Chats can be enabled with headsets, using Bluetooth WiFi technology. Once developed, subscribers can invite friends, neighbors, or any other like-minded subscribers to join them in virtual viewing parties.
“The users may watch television content as a virtual group in the social networking system. Each user may watch television content in the user’s own home, while simultaneously communicating with other users via voice and/or video conference/chat. This virtual communal television watching and discussion session is called a viewing party,” according to Cablevision’s patent application.
Virtual Communal TV Viewing may be an ideal platform for Cablevision to increase its ad revenue. According to the patent application, bar owners and eating establishments may be able to target ads to Cablevision customers who create viewing parties. “The tavern may specifically want to target adult users of viewing parties formed in the evening… Advertisements from the tavern may induce the virtual viewing party to meet in person at the tavern,” Cablevision explained in the patent application.
Perhaps cable companies are taking a cue from the online gaming community, which is powered by communal participation. In the end, people are still social animals—and the latest internet and digital TV technology won’t ever change that. With the continuing battle over carriage and content fees, capitalizing on our social tendencies may very well be the cure for declining pay TV subscriptions.