Is social media saving TV?

The way we are watching TV has fundamental changed in two ways over the last couple of years. We no longer watch programming on an actual TV; instead we are increasingly watching shows on streaming sites like the BBC iPlayer or on DVR’s. The second major change is the way we interact with our peers as we watch, posting our thoughts or looking up info on our phones, tablets, etc.

Although the iPlayer has been a massive success, it hasn’t all been good news for the networks. As we no longer watch TV shows when they are first air, networks are struggling to find new ways to start pulling viewers back to TV sets for original airdates. This is because it is during the original airdate that they can charge advertisers the most for commercials.

Due to these changes advertisers and producers have begun to weave digital campaigns and social media into TV programming. Many of us now sit and watch TV with twitter open as it is a chance to engage in two-way communication with those involved in the creation of a program. It is like sitting on your sofa watching the program with the star.

It is this kind of marketing that networks need to start thinking about more in order to prevent declining viewership. By integrating TV and digital platforms so that content can be shared seamlessly, TV watching a more active participatory experience.

One of the best examples of this to date is the ‘Grays Anatomy’ iPad app. The app is designed as a form of companion content and showcases interactive content in real time, based on what is happening on screen.  Powered by Media-Sync technology, it uses the iPad’s to listen for audio watermarks typically use for tracking TV ratings. The app can then figure out where a viewer is in a program and offer up corresponding content.

Now I am not a huge UFC fan, but I have to admit I have been impressed with their efforts to socialize their programming. They have begun streaming pay-per-view while simultaneously allowing users to interact on multiple platforms by tweeting, chatting and judging the fights.

By making creating quality programming that incorporates social media, networks are able to give viewers a reason to return to their TV sets, which in turn increases viewership and of course ad revenue. So again I pose the question can social media save TV?

@Laura_Scott is a digital strategist at Addiction Innovation.

  • Shib

    Hey Laura,

    Some good thoughts but I think the notion of “returning to their TV sets” is false.

    People are going to watch some programs regardless. The addition of brands providing social media resources for them to use is simply enhanching the expereince and taking advantage of a behavior that people already display when watching TV – being social.

    I’m sure we all know the amount of conversation / arguements that take place in any given living room when x-factor is on. By giving people a way to do it just makes it easier.

    The only thing that will boost TV viewership is good TV! At least in my opinion :)

  • Matt West

    I don’t think TV needs to be “saved”. Social media is certainly something that helps people get more out of their favourite TV shows but TV viewing is on the increase (so we in fact watch more programming on an actual TV). I’m not sure where the idea that “we no longer watch TV shows when they are first air” comes from either. Lots of inaccuracies in this article.

    As Shib noted good TV boosts viewership and as 2010 was a record year that must mean that TV is getting better.

  • Callum Saunders

    Great post Laura – I agree. I would say that social media isn’t ‘saving TV’ – rather that TV is now going social!

    I’ve really noticed the number of hashtags that are cropping up on adverts, programmes and as you say, this is fantastic, as it allows users to interact, comment and participate in the shows they are watching with a real community – all fundamental principles of social media. Look at the success of hashtags such as #BBCQT (Question Time), #BBCApprentice (Apprentice) – it’s a fantastic way for audiences to engage with each other around a shared topic, but also a great way for marketers / TV advertisers to gauge some kind of metrics around hashtag usage.

  • Matt Millar

    There are two different types of TV here:

    1. Shared experience TV
    2. On demand TV

    Second screen activity influences both – for the first second screen activity can enhance the shared experience – but social messaging isn’t necessarily the best way to achieve this (as reading messages in real time alongside TV can distract from the experience)

    For on Demand then social media helps aid discovery

    What gets really exciting is when new forms of engagement beyond commenting & chatter start to emerge – like this

  • Pingback: links for 2011-06-30 « Onlinejournalismtest's Blog()

  • Rosie Duncan

    Another potentially interesting example of this (in the UK) is Million Pound Drop Live with Divina McCall: getting people to play online and get involved in social media whilst watching the live show. This is encouraging 2/ 3 screening – interacting with both TV and PC, and perhaps even mobile at the same time! Love this APP example though, takes it a step further…

  • Dan @ InSync Marketing

    I don’t think Social Media is going to ‘save TV’ more that it’s going to have to evolve in general or die out – Things have always changed, this is no different – Making the platforms interact with each other is one thing, but the TV Companies should focus on making their media its self more social in every way, across the board, and I mean the technology, too….A remote control with a tweet this button, anyone? 😉

  • WixNoo

    TV in general has gone to the dogs. Period.

  • peter cowley

    I like Laura’s title, but i think she has only just scratched the surface of this topic……..i don’t think her examples do the subject any justice

    A few of the things that social is helping TV with is:
    – converting viewers to customers (collection of data/likes/followers and a one to one relationship via Facebook, Twitter, email etc.)
    – harnessing the ‘real time’ water cooler of chatter that surrounds TV shows
    – giving viewers a synchronous experience (Million Pound Drop’s play-along game)

    And we will see the use of paid for voting via social with Big Brother & XFactor this year

    But there is still little known hard evidence that social is increasing viewership (hard to measure), although I believe it is (reminders of shows coming up, enhanced experience, follow the discussion etc. can only help build TV brands)

    Interestingly enough, Ofcom reported last year that TV viewing had gradually grown over the last 5 years, even in the digital media age……although it did reference that social may be having an impact

  • Tess Alps

    “We no longer watch TV on an actual TV” Good God Laura, you need to get some facts quickly. Sign up to our website: . We all love social media in tellyland but who needs who more?

    On-demand TV is not instead of linear TV. In fact it helps to boost linear TV by offering easy catch-up. Won’t go on any more Laura. But seriously, let us come in and present to Addiction – soon!

  • laura scott

    It is great to see that this article has started so much debate!

    As @peter Cowley noted, I only began to scratch the surface of what I am sure we will all recognise as a real shift in the consumption of TV.

    Although I made a big statement in my title, my intention was more to highlight the way in which social media is part of the evolution of TV viewing and how TV is consumed. As part of the Addiction Worldwide group, over the years we have become known for being great champions of TV and for finding ways to help clients respond to the changing TV landscape.

    As there has been so much debate, I want to share with you the sources that helped fuelled my opinion. According to two studies released in February of this year Internet protocol television (IPTV) is growing at an incredibly pace. In fact figures released from a study conducted by the firm Point Topic show that “ IPTV subscribers worldwide now stands at 41.9 million” with “36.7% growth in the last 12 months).” Another study conducted by Global Industry Analysts, Inc. projects that the “IPTV market will generate $78.9 billion in revenues by 2015.” These numbers in my opinion demonstrate a real shift in TV land that will be fascinating to watch play out over the next few years.

    @Tess Alps as you pointed of course people will continue to watch linear TV – indeed I still do. It was a poor choice of words on my part. Just as you love Social Media we love TV and want to be part of this ongoing debate and the challenges it brings.

  • Pingback: The Top Five for Friday: # 1 | Marque()