On deck: A trove of second and third screen apps.

Anvato Social TVTV is already in the process of transforming from one-way broadcast to a community platform where viewers can interact not only with each other, but also with the content owners and the brands that advertise on TV.

It is not necessary to wait for consumers to upgrade to smart TVs that connect to the Internet and run applications. Connected mobile devices such as today’s tablets and smartphones are the catalyst of this change.

Social TV is in its infancy, but it has gone beyond its initial baby steps. A recent Nielson study showed that 70 percent of tablet owners and 68 percent of smartphone users use their devices while watching TV. We know that’s not just for changing channels.

The promise of social TV
At heart, social TV is not about the latest smart TVs that can run applications, but about complementing the existing TV experience with portable devices such as tablets, smartphones and laptops. It is about leveraging popular social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter, letting friends share comments about programs and ads.

Social TV offers a new platform for brands to interact directly with consumers who check in to the shows and ads they are watching.

According to media forecaster MagnaGlobal, advertisers spent $60 billion on TV ads in 2011 and are expected to spend $62.4 billion in 2012, whereas online ads increased 15.6 percent to $30 billion in 2011. This increase is occurring despite there being no good way for advertisers to engage individual viewers and reward them with incentives while watching aired shows and TV ads.

Eventually, advertisers are going to want to reward the behavior with status rewards or buying incentives (coupons) for interacting with the brands.

Every mobile gadget is a TV remote
So the idea is as follows: Ever since premium channels came alive via cable and satellite, people have been thinking of ways to reinvent the TV experience.

Because people spend 17 hours a day with their phones, and with tablets like the iPad and Kindle Fire growing in popularity, augmenting the TV experience with these so-called second and third screens is the key. Already, people are watching TV while interacting with their social media accounts. The new TV interface has expanded to include tablets, laptops, smartphones, gaming consoles and who knows what else down the road (eventually, the entirely wired smart house).

Lost the remote? The phone is the new remote. One of the challenges behind social TV is finding a seamless backend synchronization of mobile devices and the TV. Fingerprinting technology can pick up audio feeds and tell you what program or what tune or movie you’re watching; it can also ensure that all input devices fall in sync with the TV.

And it performs this feat in real time while the show airs. The beauty is that you don’t need to upgrade your TV to run any applications – your favorite smartphone or tablet computer will suffice.

TV intimacy creates new models
With networks looking for ways to recapture revenue lost to online streaming, in addition to finding new strategies to keep their viewers glued, new promo services can be offered to advertisers where, for example, tweets can follow TV characters and comment about merchandise in real time: “Those shoes Rachael wears are from Macy’s.” During a commercial break, this can be followed up with: “Click here to get a 20 percent Zappos coupon.”

Social TV will create new advertising models. For the first time, broadcast owners can reward their audiences with something meaningful and in real time. They can say: “You have done something for my advertiser. You have not only watched the commercial, but you’ve tweeted about it. Now I’ll do something for you.”

It’s the ultimate brand marketing that couples a call-and-response action with a feedback loop. With a small app installed from the App Store, for example, the networks will have the intelligence to know when viewers are engaged online and which program they’re watching.

The model is similar to the idea behind using cell phone GPS location to send users coupons when they near a particular store. But in this TV model, the user is already in the right context and mindset – he/she is engaged in the media and won’t find it nearly as intrusive. TV still holds the largest share of the ad budget, and given what social TV can offer, advertisers will line up for this close proximity to fans.

Brave new world of TV
In the new year, we’ll see a trove of second and third screen apps.

In April, Yahoo acquired IntoNow, a check-in service where people share what they’re watching. IntoNow listens to the TV and matches it against a hive of 160 million TV hours. Before Yahoo acquired it, IntoNow signed a deal with Pepsi for giveaways redeemable at Target stores.

GetGlue, another check-in app, quickly amassed 1 million users, and its competitor Miso recently received venture funding. The Old Navy retailer used Shazam to give away free jeans.

On this same social TV front, we’ll see Facebook, with 800 million members, jump into this in a big way. Google TV will make a comeback. Apple will promote its iTV – not just a set-top box, but pushing its own branded TV sets that will applify TV in profound ways, similar to the way the company reinvented music buying and listening.

We’ll see new video fingerprinting technology that binds TV to tablets and all other input devices, auto-listening to identify TV shows, and the assurance that all devices stay in sync. These devices will sync with the cloud, so you may even continue watching on a different device. This sector is bound to grow rapidly and create new roles and revenues because it gives advertisers a new channel to market directly to social media users and consumers.

Is social TV in your future?