In recent months there has been a big increase in social TV viewing – where viewers will engage in a running commentary on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. For those of you with a laptop or iPhone/similar handset, you may have been part of this movement already. Sitting watching X Factor on a Saturday night making comments about those cheeky chappies from Ireland. Love them or loath them they were a Twitter phenomenon with the #Jedward hashtag trending within moments of the show starting each week.
For her part, my other half cannot stand it when I am tweeting and watching TV at the same time. For me though it is no different to sitting in the lounge and shouting to someone in the kitchen “Come in here, you’ve got to see Jedward this week, they’re doing Ghostbusters!”. It’s just a new form of engagement with people who aren’t sat beside you on the sofa.
More recently there have been other TV events that have gained a Social TV audience – Nick Griffin’s appearance on Question Time, the E4 Series Glee (Nice hashtag – #Glee4), ITVs Primeval, the Eurovision Song Contest and just about any major sporting event. Keep an eye on the trending topics on Twitter or your friend’s Status Updates on Facebook and you can start to see how important this interaction is becoming. It is a great way to get an additional perspective on the content that is being broadcast. For years DVDs have been available with a Directors Commentary, TV now has the equivalent, a form of live commentary that will both challenge and enhance the viewing experience.
So what is the future of this social media interaction with TV? Below are a few of my thoughts on how it may develop.
- Real-time multimedia/multi-platform interaction – Use of a live hashtag Twitter feed on-screen via the red button during a programme. Advertisers would also be able sponsor or include a number of messages in to the feed as it is live on-screen. Given that individual shows have fairly specific demographics, an advertiser would be happy to be offered a niche marketing opportunity.
- Audience defined content – If you are old enough to remember the “Chose Your Own Adventure” books then perhaps you will get a chance to re-visit this concept through the medium of Social TV. Picture a scenario where you are watching a show and as a the main character reaches a key decision point, the options flash up on the screen with 2 or more hashtags for viewers to use to shape the direction of the plot. After a short advertising break, the show resumes based on how the audience wishes to direct the character. Clearly there would be multiple elements of a storyline to be filmed and this would bring its own challenges. TV though has struggled to keep people watching TV in real-time due to the emergence of Sky+ and other PVRs in recent years and by (re)engaging with the audience in real-time, the TV advertising market could be re-invigorated.
- Online test audiences – Films could be premiered in a raw form to test audiences who then comment throughout the screening, all comments can be viewed in real-time by marketing teams who are able to improve the film before it’s release. This would mean an international audience, no travel and very little expense for a studio to get what would be extremely valuable feedback before a film is finalised.
- Getting the formula right – My view is that it will take great content, a great distribution channel (or channels) and a selection of platforms to consume the content.
Whatever the future of TV, it is clear that online and social media are going to play an increasing part in how and where we consume broadcast media. Being part of a shared media experience, even if you are on your own, will be the shape of things to come. There are opportunities for advertisers too, certainly for those who are brave enough to try something new. I suspect the World Cup this summer will be a major test bed.
What is your view? Do you agree? How has online shaped your TV experience in the last 12 months? I’d love to know your thoughts.