Smart Speakers and Voice are Changing Viewer Engagement and Media Consumption

Smart speakers are becoming a household necessity, especially when it comes to the TV viewing experience. Using simple voice controls to change channels, rewind or fast-forward the content, and many more activities, means you no longer have to spend ages searching for a misplaced remote control or smartphone and more time multi-tasking on your laptop and messaging friends on social media.

But aside from the convenience factor, using voice assistants through smart speakers to interact with other devices offers so much more opportunity. It’s a very natural transition into a voice-activated home – but this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the possibilities of the content viewing experience and smart speaker integration.

Engaging the TV Audience by Voice

Amazon Echo, Google Home and other voice assistants on the market present an incredible opportunity for content creators to truly engage with the audience watching or listening to a show. Early innovators such as the BBC, Netflix and Warner Bros are already transforming the industry with their unique shows and games based around viewer interaction, allowing the audience to take a central role.

For example, the BBC’s interactive radio drama, ‘The Inspection Chamber’, was one of the first broadcasts to create a new type of interactive audio content. It allows the listener to shape the story based on the answers provided, creating one of several potential endings.

It’s really exciting as this type of interactivity is what builds true long-lasting engagement. As Henry Cooke, senior producer for BBC Research & Development says: “We’re trying to make something that sits between the two: the rich audio storytelling of a radio drama, and the feeling of participation that you get from a game.”

Using Voice and Gamification to Promote Media Awareness

This gamified approach to audio interactive radio adventures seems to be something that has caught the attention of Warner Bros too, as they used it as part of the promotional activity with Amazon for their ‘Batman vs. Superman’ movie a few years ago.

Entitled ‘The Wayne Investigation’, the game is a fully immersive audio experience, complete with sound effects and multiple characters. As the key investigator in the world of Gotham, just days after Bruce Wayne’s parents were killed, the player’s experience ends with a clever marketing hook by allowing users to ask Alexa about the show times of the movie.

More recently, Netflix has also created its own version of an audio game on Google’s smart speakers to promote their ‘Lost in Space’ series. What’s very clever about this particular experience is that it was recorded with participation of the show’s cast, making it an exciting feature of the show.

With the upcoming new series of The Grand Tour, the show’s marketing team are also hoping to tap into this new way of communicating with an ‘Alexa Skills Challenge’ that goes beyond useful functionality, but really creates that fun engagement and innovation aspect without taking itself too seriously.

Media Engagement Becomes More Active and Integrated

We expect to see even more examples of audio integration into viewer experiences going beyond games, just as social media transformed the way we approach viewer engagement by allowing them to have their say, especially in the reality show format. Smart speakers can be used to create polls and voting experiences, which opens new opportunities for content creators in terms of creativity, viewer data and marketing.

Those within the Gen Alpha generation are growing up in a completely different tech environment with experiences such as ‘Lego Duplo Stories’, which is created specifically for toddlers. The interactive story telling experience allows children to build things with Lego pieces as they listen to the story.

“Voice is such a powerful tool for play as it is one of the most human ways of interacting. Long before we can type, read or control a device, we listen and speak,” said James Poulter, Head of Emerging Platforms & Partnerships at Lego.

We are certain that similar storytelling approaches will soon translate to kids shows, making them more educational and exciting to watch. Smart speakers are going to completely change the viewing dynamic, presenting a very exciting opportunity for personalization and true engagement.

Audience engagement goes beyond entertainment, as it is also becoming a crucial factor for the e-commerce experience. Just think about how much emphasis marketers spend on the visual appearance of a product. With more and more smart speakers, consumers are using the devices to shop, so it is clear that audio strategy is something brand managers need to address now.

Smart Speakers are Making Media Consumption a Group Activity Again

With smart speakers not showing any signs of slowing down, we are also seeing old family traditions coming back. Just as the radio gathered the whole family to sit down for some evening entertainment, smart speakers are taking time away from immersive devices as it is widely considered to be a more natural way of having fun as a group. As Michael Rutelli, Global Creative Content Strategy Director, Commonwealth/McCann put it: “The next generation is going to be powered by voice.”


About the Author

Jason George is CEO of Telescope TV. The company’s Connect Live platform powers viewer engagement experiences for NASCAR, Turner’s Sport NBA coverage, Major League Soccer, and the NHL. Its video streaming platform, Live Studio, pioneered professional live video on social platforms and led to the company being nominated for two Emmy Awards in 2017. A pioneer of the social and engagement television spaces, Jason has worked at the forefront of audience interactivity and technology for more than two decades. His past work includes media and technology engagement for NBC’s “The Voice,” and “America’s Got Talent”, and “American Idol” on FOX, as well as major hits on CBS, ABC, Food Network, HGTV, SyFy, Bravo, and Telemundo.