Social TV And The Super Bowl: When Will Marketers Start Really Spending?

In case you missed it, Super Bowl XLVI is forecast to be a watershed year for the second-screen concept, the quest to extend the television-viewing experience beyond the TV and into a socially networked universe of mobile devices.
On Sunday, marketers of social TV apps – which typically blend social-network interaction and live-TV viewing — expect to engage more users for a single event than ever before. And from Coke to Pepsi to General Motors, social TV companies including GetGlue, IntoNow, Shazam and Miso will be working with a number of major brands.
But for all the hoopla surrounding social TV this year, a lot of the second-screen campaigns amount to low-cost experimentation. “For us, [campaigns like the Super Bowl] continue to be essentially pilot projects, and not so much about the money involved,” said Alex Iskold, president and CEO of social TV company GetGlue, a startup that will be sponsored by PepsiCo this weekend. “Our No. 1 objective right now is building our network and our user base. We’re learning how to monetize GetGlue and what advertisers want.” Industry-wide, Iskold said brand-commitments for social TV Super Bowl activity this weekend will typically range in the low six-figures.
Super Bowl watchers will be using their second — and maybe even third — screens to, of course, text, Tweet, Facebook and even email. Marketers, meanwhile, will be trying entice users of the social TV apps to download discount offers, enter sweepstakes, vote on their favorite ads and buy music, among other actions.
Adam Cahan, founder of social TV app IntoNow, purchased last year by Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) for around $30 million, said it can be hard to gauge the purchase price of a second-screen sponsorship. A typical brand buy-in for his platform, he explained, will often also include elements across myriad other Yahoo platforms. “The typical buy can be a six-figure buy, but generally speaking, it’s part of large-scale packages in which the advertiser is getting multiple consumer experiences,” said Cahan, whose company is also working with Pepsi this weekend.
So what’s the timeline to monetization? “We are working on mapping that out now, but for it to scale and turn into a real business, we will need to grow our user base at least 10 to 20 times the amount we’re at now,” Iskold said. Currently, GetGlue says it has about 2 million users. “It is hard to say how long that will take, but we are hoping to cross 5 million users by the end of this year,” he added.
With big brands coughing up, on average, $3.5 million for a 30-second Super Bowl commercial this weekend, Iskold said they’re “not yet eager to spend TV-like dollars on the social media.” “We’re looking to digital for a more meaningful way to engage with the consumer one on one,” Pepsi Max brand team executive Sam Duboff told us.
Iskold added: “Everyone agrees this is valuable. We’re just trying to figure out how much value it has.”
For operators like Iskold, the value the Super Bowl represents is more about user-base building. He said his company is expecting have its highest usage ever this weekend, with more than 50,000 GetGlue users. In last year’s Super Bowl, GetGlue couldn’t handle its traffic volume; this year, the company has doubled its number of servers.