Social Engagement: The Future King of TV

Twitter, Facebook, and the Correlation with Nielsen Ratings

I spoke at the TVOT (TV of Tomorrow) conference this week and one of the discussion items on my panel was the evolution of content. My prediction is that social engagement (defined as: Viewers engaging around TV shows via Twitter, Facebook, or second-screen apps) is poised to replace content as king of the TV space. By “content” I mean TV content created and produced by professional studios. Until now, such content has been king because it drives Nielsen ratings and Nielsen ratings are what broadcasters live or die by.

But “The Times They Are A’ Changing” as Bob Dylan would say. The impact of Twitter or Facebook updates around a TV show are starting to display a strong correlation with Nielsen ratings. In fact, at the recent Social TV Summit in New York, Chloe Sladden, Twitter’s head of Media Partnerships, said, “When you look at the volume of same-day Tweets about a show, it’s a significant factor in explaining that show’s ratings.” She added that one of the goals for 2012 is to make Twitter engagement a peer to Nielsen ratings.

There is no doubt that social engagement around TV shows will continue to grow, in my view, exponentially. The technologies needed to facilitate and measure such engagement are here, provided by the ever-evolving Twitter and Facebook platforms, the second-screen solutions like Miso (and tens of others), and new analytics companies such as Bluefin Labs.

What’s more contentious at this stage is the impact that this growing social engagement will have on content. My projection (illustrated in the graphic below) is that viewers’ engagement around TV shows will become so massive that it will start undermining the current ways of creating shows and become the main driver for new TV content.

Nielsen Ratings, TV Content, Social Engagement, Social TV

In the Future, Social Engagement will Drive TV Content rather than
TV Content Driving Social Interactions

Content will increasingly be created with social interaction in mind, so in the future; social engagement will drive TV content rather than TV content driving social interactions. The audience will be able to change the storyline, or even create the storyline, by engaging around show content in real-time. We already have audiences voting online for some game shows, and affecting the outcome of the show.

One can imagine, in the near future, viewers having the “power of life and death” over characters in future episodes of “Revenge” by voting via Twitter on which character should die next.

“Social engagement” becoming the new “King” doesn’t mean that “content is dead” – quite the contrary. My view is that this will actually open up new opportunities for “creatives” to think more creatively about new types of content: content that could be generated by social interactions. It is interesting to see from Twitter data how buzz about a particular show actually begins before the show starts airing and continues after it’s off the air. This points to future opportunities for broadcasters to:

• Develop more pre- and post- show content for the most socially-engaged shows

• Keep their viewers engaged longer

• Sell more advertising

• Bring in more revenue.


More on that in a future post.




9 Responses

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Great article! I’ve been following the social tv industry for much of this year and you’ve touched on my own train of thought here.

I started using Twitter to talk about shows a couple of years ago. At the time there were only a few people talking about a select number of programs around hashtags like #Fringe. Anecdotally I can attest to the increase in the number of conversations and the number of shows being talked about.

To date the social tv industry has been focused on the data being produced by these conversations and finding ways to parse the data to be displayed on second screen apps. The development of second screen apps and content for them has dominated and probably necessarily so.

The poor cousin in this process has been community engagement in that networks are aware of the conversations going on but haven’t assigned someone or a team of someones to monitor and engage in conversation around the programs and help drum up buzz but I think this will mature in 2012.

Michael Girard
Community Engagement, Radian6

This is a nice post, Anne-Marie. I especially love that you put your definition for social engagement right up front…too often I feel people throw around the term without completely knowing/understanding/deciding what it means to them. Thank you!

I’m interested in your thoughts on the world of second screen apps. It seems like I hear about a new one popping up every day and sometimes I wonder if we’re headed towards a bubble – at least from the apps point of view. (I wholeheartedly believe social TV as an industry is here to stay). Would love to know what you think about that!

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