SXSW Content: OVEE, a case study of social video consumption

ovee_logoToday’s SXSW session “Lean Forward and Back: Social Video Can Have It All” explored how great technology and UX can engage audiences with online video as a social experience using the case study of OVEE, the social screening platform created by the Independent Television Service. 

The Online Video Engagement Experience (OVEE) platform was created to present high quality film and television content online, and building a real-time engagement experience around it for public television viewers, teachers and communities of interest, to “watch together, from anywhere”. OVEE is a freestanding web application that synchs up multiple streams on the PBS COVE website, and allows online viewers to interact in real time around content by signing on through the platform or via Facebook.


“ITVS acknowledged that it was the business model that was getting in the way of truly social commercial TV, with appointment-to-view and broadcast revenue still dominant” said Dennis Palmieri, Director of Innovation & Media Strategies at ITVS. But as a public television station focussed on engagement and education, ITVS could move beyond the business model to innovate. Understanding that audiences want interaction but that lean-forward/lean-back experiences are different, OVEE sought to fuse second screen social interaction with primary screen content viewing.

At its heart, OVEE seeks to recreate the experience of going to a live screening venue and watching with an audience. To set up a screening on the OVEE platform, users browse multiple screening types, preview content, and schedule a screening time (up to a year in the future). They then choose whether to make the screening private (invite only through the OVEE email system, used by businesses and education) or public (an open unique URL with ability for attendees to sign in publicly or anonymously). Other options include electing a moderator for the screening, adding panelists or special speakers (who can join via webcam), adding branding or advertising if desired, and even pre-programming interactive moments throughout the screening (polls, announcements, extra information, links etc). Up to 500 users can then join the screening, watch, interact, comment, vote and more, with OVEE syncing concurrent streams within 3 seconds of each other.

Palmieri revealed that OVEE has cost $1.7m to develop to the current beta stage. The focus has been on making PBS’s huge content archive available, but in time the focus will shift to user generated content and a “roadmap to YouTube”.

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