Jim Long - Digital Media and Culture

Social TV – The Power of Discovery, Recommendation, and Serendipity

The conversation around the content

While traditional media fights to hang on to linear audiences, they are also tasked with cultivating new viewers in an increasingly fragmented media space. These audiences, empowered with multiple screens and recommendations from their social graphs, look to news feeds in social networks as their new electronic program guide.

Meanwhile, nimble, niche content internet TV networks like Revision3 are building these experiences from the ground up – further testing established media.  Marketing and promotion of television poses more challenge than ever before. Yet at the same time, there are unique opportunities to truly engage audiences as people, not just ratings. Bus backs and billboards don’t build trust or program loyalty,  real human conversation does.

Today, I have the privilege of sitting on a panel at the 140 conference in New York that will explore how news organizations are engaging in conversations on the web to drive viewership. Social TV is complicated and has a lot of moving parts. For many, it is the new “TV Guide”.

Simpler Times

When I was growing up, my family would gather around a 19 inch black and white TV – the only one in the house – that sat perched on a rickety aluminum framed patio table.  We didn’t have a remote, so we would actually have to get up from our seat to “surf” the five VHF and handful of UHF channels that our rabbit ears were capable of picking up.

TV was a planned event. In terms of news, we were a NBC family. The recommendation engine that informed our viewing came by way of the TV guide that arrived with each Sunday newspaper. (remember them?) Gosh, it was simple back then.  Everyone gathered around their boxes and all of the available viewing choices fit into a thin weekly circular.  Lack of options made program loyalty a pretty simple proposition.

Social TV and the Transmedia Experience

Today, viewers not only have boundless choices of what to watch, but they are also unlimited in terms of how, when, where and on what devices the enjoy content. So from a viewer standpoint, the challenge is search and discovery of meaningful content on a variety of platforms. From a content creator perspective, the challenge is much more complex.

Facebook Becoming Key to Audience Loyalty and Development
Some pretty compelling statistics come in report from Inside Facebook citing data from Facebook’s Media Partnerships Director Justin Osofsky.

  • around 1.65 billion “likes” of TV shows
  • 275 million Facebook users have liked a TV show
  • 17 of the top 100 most like pages on Facebook are TV shows

No longer is it a matter of simply coming up with formulaic show concept and promoting it across traditional channels.  Audiences expect a level of what the hipsters now call a “transmedia” experience.  Whether that conversation comes in the form of a Facebook friend “like” -ing a show, a Twitter conversation with actors in a drama or reporters from a newscast , or an expanded experience on the web  – there are a dizzying array of touchpoints where audiences can encounter content on their social entertainment operating systems.

Further Reading

Comcast Taps Facebook for Enhanced TV Experience

Good Social TV Roundup Curated by Mo Kromchal


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  • http://www.ann-sense.com/ Ann Marie van den Hurk, APR

    I remember when TV was a planned event. I also remember how recording shows especially mini-series on the VCR changed TV viewing. For my parents TV is still a planned event though I’ve tried to enlighten them to more flexible options. (I’m weary for their complaints they couldn’t watch show x because another show y was on the same time.)

    I admit I don’t fully understand Social TV and transmedia, but I do use GetGlue and often check out what some folks are watching when posted to Twitter. Other that I can’t really tell how I find things to watch and then why I watch them.

    • newmediajim

      I don’t think any of us fully grasp the mechanics or implications of social TV. I do think Facebook is a strong component of it, but transmedia is far more complex.

      • http://www.ann-sense.com/ Ann Marie van den Hurk, APR

        I’d agree. But what does it all mean? Just because someone has clicked “like” on Facebook for a show or movie doesn’t mean they are a regular viewer and it doesn’t tell what platform they are watching it from.  

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