Will 2013 be the year of social TV, when this growing sector hits the mainstream? Was 2012? There has certainly be a lot of industry activity from consolidations, acquisitions and new product launches.

Even over just the last months, GetGlue’s been acquired by Viggle, Zeebox reached US shores and already’s seeing significant number of downloads, networks like CBS have rolled out new companion experiences, Dish launched its app and there are lots of others seeking to become the breakthrough app and ‘go to’ destination.

missed targetThere’s clearly a lot of dollars chasing the growing second screen audience.  Numerous studies have shown that TV viewers are engaged on their devices, be they laptops, tablets or smartphones.  Which of all the apps now in the marketplace will become the social TV ‘killer app’ is still to be determined – and in fact that app (or likely apps) may not even exist yet.

Today, big audiences are online and watching TV simultaneously; there’s a tremendous opportunity for brands to reach those viewers in this emerging cross-platform environment.  Whoever captures them stands to win big.

However, in many ways, the second screen audience seems to be quite dispersed across all of the varied companion experiences, and hence difficult to reach.  But one opportunity that does not seem to be pursued aggressively is that of the large audiences on ‘mainstream’ online media sites already.  Many of the highly trafficked sites on the web have this co-viewing audience now, perhaps without even realizing it.

What they’re not doing however is providing a rich, engaging companion experience for these viewers.  While not necessarily applicable to all shows and all sites, it’s not difficult to imagine how a lot of these high volume sites could easily keep their users more engaged and on their site longer by offering them content related to the show they’re likely already watching.

Sports sites hosting live content related to Monday Night Football, teen-oriented sites delivering live chats around Glee, entertainment sites discussing American Idol or The Voice during the show are all ripe but for the most part missed opportunities.  Most of these destinations have huge online audiences that are multi-tasking between TV and their site.  Why not provide companion content to focus these viewers and engage them – on their own site – with what’s happening right in front of them in their living room.  As viewers seek more social TV type experiences, these destinations can keep these viewers or lose them to others.

Willie Sutton mug shotThere are numerous platforms and ‘white label’ providers that the ‘big’ sites’ could use to embed such TV companion content into their own properties.  They say Willie Sutton robbed banks because “that’s where the money is.”  The online giants should look to their own sites because that’s where the co-viewing audience – and the social TV money – is.