Back in July I wrote my first article on the social TV phenomenon (the practice of using social media and the second screen to engage with friends while watching TV). Since then this trend has seen astronomical growth with fall premieres and November Sweeps becoming dominated by social TV campaigns and an explosion of apps for tablets, smartphones and connected TVs. I am also sure the Canadian Media Fund and the Bell Fund are seeing social TV on every single application they get this fall for a television series. But how many of the broadcasters, funders and television producers are digging deep into this trend, spending time using the existing apps and understanding what works and what doesn’t from the audience perspective? Most won’t have the time, so to get you started From Search to Screen is going to take a deeper look over the next three installments. This issue examines the first part of the equation, what is the current social TV app climate (and the data already available); next week I will look at some examples of these apps and their functionality and features; and finally the third issue will share my experiences as an engaged audience member and my opinions about what the next generation should include to grab the largest audience share possible.
Drowning in a Sea of Apps
I track social TV every day, reading and scanning articles to better understand this trend, and every day I see announcements of the launch of more social TV apps and gadgets. There is no way to possibly look and experience all of these (I’m just one gal) and many of the newest ones are not available in Canada yet. Whether it is a general app or one associated with a specific television show, I can only think the average consumer, no matter how young and tech savvy, will eventually also feel overwhelmed. A recent PEW Internet study shows that half of adult cell phone owners and three quarters of tablet owners in the States have apps on their devices. While about a third are not using these at all (the older you are the more likely this is), almost an equal amount (30% for phones and 33% for tablets) are accessing 3 to 5 apps a week with many of these potentially being used in a second screen context. The appetite for these apps is there, but with all this development, is social TV app fatigue inevitable? How do you not get lost in all the “noise” and what is most appealing to the television fans in terms of social dialogue?
Social Conversation Statistics
A recent study by Nielsen took a closer look at the online conversations about TV between May 2009 and August 2011. It was interested in determining the Who, When and What in this space:
- Who was talking about TV online? The membership on social networks skews more female, but surprisingly those in conversations about television skews slightly more male ( 55% men versus 45% women). In terms of age, the most active demographic talking about TV online is 25-34.
- When are people engaged in TV conversations? The weekends are the slowest days and Tuesday and Wednesday are the two days with the most social TV discussions. This mirrors more traditional data on television viewing habits.
- What were they talking about? The most common topic viewers discussed was “winning” – which may be been boosted by Charlie Sheen’s #winning meme, but also reflects an interest in programming with a competitive element (as can be seen by the ratings data below). The numbers also show “entertaining” and “funny” (worth 22% of the conversation combined) beats out “drama” (which ranked lowest with only 6%).
Clearly the social TV conversation is happening, but does it really have an impact on how many people watch your show?
Social Buzz and Television Ratings
I recently wrote about traditional television audience data and how I feel the future lies in the online numbers, but it is still interesting to see how the new and old data converge. Another recent Nielsen study took a look at social buzz and TV ratings and found there is a positive connection, though it varies over the course of the season and with different demographics. The strongest correlations were found in younger viewers, ages 12-17 and 18-34. Some key findings for the 18-34 demographic:
- Social media buzz most closely aligned with TV ratings in the weeks just before a show premieres – generally a 9% increase in buzz correlated to a 1% increase in ratings;
- As the show’s season went on, the connection weakened – a 14% buzz increase correlated with a 1% increase in ratings at both the mid-season mark and just before the show’s finale;
- Women in this age group most often turned social media conversations into actual TV viewing (and ratings) with reality shows (both competition and non-competition), dramas and comedies;
- While the social-to-ratings connection for men in this demographic happened most often with competition reality programs and dramas.
The social TV phenomenon is alive and well and continues to be of benefit for all kinds of programming. How do you make this reality work for you?
Making Social Apps Work for Your Television Show
Social TV app fatigue may eventually hit the fan, but right now there is an opportunity. How do new shows capitalize on this trend and stay innovative enough to participate effectively in the social TV marketplace? It is important for funders, broadcasters and producers to understand the kinds of apps and gadgets in this space and the functionality they offer. They also need to know what it is like for the audience to participate in this way. This is exactly what I will start examining next week.
Do you have any other ideas, questions, resources, tips or insight about the social TV phenomenon? Have you developed an app for your television show? What were the results? The more you can share the better. Please post below or send via email to annelise(at)veria.ca or on Twitter @veriatweet.
Next issue: Social TV Apps – Pt. 2: A Sampling
Or revisit the previous issue: Top Tips for “Future Proofing” Your Media Company/Career (from the WIFT Digital Media Summit 2011)