Can Social Media Save Live TV?

This article first appeared on The Next Great Generation on July 12, 2011.

Until recently, I had serious doubts about the survival of TV as we know it. With the Internet so ingrained in daily life, and platforms like Hulu and Netflix offering an abundance of content on-demand, I couldn’t see the network television concept being sustained. Then I bought an iPad.

Like many users, I’ve been blown away by the “second screen” experience with the iPad. I use it almost constantly while watching TV, most often to monitor Twitter or Facebook. This newfound addiction spurred a realization: it’s way harder for you to engage with social media if you’re watching DVR’d content.

One of the best things about recorded content is the ability to skip commercials and watch shows at your leisure. But commercials provide the necessary downtime for reading and posting on social media platforms. Increasingly, actors, producers, and writers are live-tweeting with their fans. Because more conversations about TV are happening on Twitter and Facebook, spoilers are everywhere (especially if the spoilers abound on Twitter and Facebook – and very especially if the DVR content you’re watching is time-shifted just a few hours.)

When you add all of these factors up, it’s hard to argue that social media could save live television. A June 29 report from eMarketer supports this.

The report states:

When it comes to socializing TV in real time, Twitter has emerged as the leader. TV networks have begun to insert hashtags on-screen in an effort to bring real-time conversations together under a common banner, and encouraging actors and other talent to live-tweet to boost engagement.

A few months ago I wrote about how Scrubs/Cougar Town Creator Bill Lawrence used social media to engage fans and build buzz before Cougar Town’s spring finale. After having a few Twitter conversations with Bill himself, and after the ensuing (star-struck) excitement, I now believe absolutely that socialTV is going to revolutionize the way we experience entertainment. GigaOM blogger Janko Roettgers even wonders that if Twitter was as popular in 2006 as it is now, could it have saved shows like Arrested Development?

This graph from eMarketer shows that when Survivor host Jeff Probst started live-tweeting during episodes, Twitter activity around the show spiked. Social media and TV are colliding and fans totally love it.

But it’s not just Twitter – Facebook is showing potential to harness a different aspect of socialTV: the schedule guide.

At a marketing conference on June 30 Andy Mitchell, SVP of Strategic Partner Development at Facebook said, “If you look at the program guide [as it stands now], you’re trying to figure out what to watch among five hundred channels. It’s really hard…But think about a program guide where you see what your friends are watching, that changes the experience.”

Lost Remote follows that up with an interesting idea:

Facebook also offers the ability to schedule and check into events, which could have interesting implications for a social TV guide. Speaking earlier this year, Facebook’s Christian Hernandez Gallardo says they’ve spoken with broadcasters about the idea of “putting their full EPG (electronic programming guide) as events on Facebook and the ability to RSVP and check-in to all of them.”

That seems to makes sense. I already use Facebook events to help schedule my social life, and I’d rather put entries for TV shows on Facebook than my more important and serious Google calendar. Seeing what my friends are watching via a suggestion guide seems intuitive without being pushy.

It just seems natural to be extending the entertainment experience from the big screen to the second screens. And I’d much rather be part of the action while it happens, instead of looking back on it after the fact.

What do you think – does social media have the power to save live TV?


One response to “Can Social Media Save Live TV?

  1. Eleanor,
    Just discovered your Blog, well done!

    Great post, I’ve also been following the Collision of TV and Social Media and at the recent Promax/BDA event in New York, Dave Morgan with SimulMedia said “Social Media is like Steroids for TV” and it really is.

    It truly may be the catalyst that not only brings back Real Time viewing, it looks as if it will increase viewership as the Connected TV comes into it’s own.

    It’s going to be a fun and bumpy ride ahead.


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