AT this year's MIPCube event in Cannes, Twitter's head of broadcast partnerships in the U.K. Dan Biddle asserted that with 40 percent of U.K. tweets during peak-time television hours focused on TV itself, "Twitter is now the room in which we're watching television."
The facts backing his case are highly compelling – recent research from TV Licensing in the U.K. shows that the increasing use of portable devices is actually driving up the amount of TV we're watching, and mobile multitasking is now something of a phenomenon with a significant 78 percent of smartphone users accessing the Web while watching TV. When we consider that mobile is also the chief means through which we're accessing Twitter (60 percent of users, according to Biddle), the scope of the social TV opportunity becomes instantly evident.
And broadcasters are beginning to really feel the benefits of how social media boosts their engagement with new and existing audiences, whilst maximising the reach of their content. At the recent Guardian Changing Media Summit, Darren Childs, CEO of broadcaster UKTV, revealed that ratings for its one if its flagship shows – "Dynamo" – grew as a direct result of Twitter – proof positive of how online conversation about a new piece of TV can swell viewership. Other, non-traditional broadcasters such as Netflix – which enables subscribers to share their viewing activity with Facebook friends – are also proving highly receptive to the social TV opportunity.
TV – especially live TV – is something inherently social and, coupled with the online conversation made possible by social media, it's more compelling than ever. As an open, dialogue-driven forum that brings together conversations via the power of hashtags, Twitter in particular lends itself to social TV. And with more than 10 million active Twitter users in the U.K., 60 percent of whom are tweeting while watching TV (40 percent tweeting about TV itself), there are essentially four million conversations that broadcasters could be tapping into.
The social media platform means that both enjoying and mocking a TV show has become something of an art form. While one of the most tweeted about TV shows in the U.K. is reality TV show The Only Way is Essex, (often reaching up to 7,000 tweets a minute!), it's actually live events that still trigger some of the largest conversations. When British tennis star Andy Murray won a gold medal in the men’s tennis singles at last year's London Olympics, for example, the news generated a whopping 57,000+ tweets per minute. By its very nature, live TV provides a chance for people to share a common experience or spectacle, and being able to comment in real time on social media, with both friends and strangers, is an excellent enhancement. In some cases, the online conversation almost becomes an event in its own right!
The social media phenomenon is also great news for monetisation. We are becoming increasingly accustomed to seeing the inclusion of hashtags during broadcasts, especially during live TV, but ads themselves are also going social. In 2012, Thinkbox reported that 81 percent of viewers staying in the living room whilst ads are showing, and are multi-screening during this time, so social ads seem to be a natural next step for advertisers. Appealing to social networking is proving to be highly effective in helping brands steer conversation and drive engagement, and as much as 68 percent of brands are encouraging multi-screening by using a social networking mention, such as a Twitter logo, hashtag, or website URL within their TV advert.
So what's next? Increasingly we're seeing evidence of the ways in which social media is not only changing how media content is being consumed, distributed and promoted, but how it's starting to change the nature of programming itself. As Twitter's Biddle highlighted at MIPCube, broadcasters need to "think about programming Twitter as you programme your channel." We can undoubtedly expect to see more personalised viewing experiences such as live entertainment that integrates the second-screen experience and in which social media interactions, such as voting, form an integral part of programme formatting. This in turn will help to extend the reach and scope of the next generation of programming.
- Check it out: with more than 26,000 Twitter followers, Bassmaster, the U.S. fishing membership organisation with more than half a million members, is using Brightcove’s Zencoder Live Cloud Transcoding service to live stream tournaments to multiple devices – opening up the event to its entire online community and promoting episodes via Twitter.
- Like, Link, Share, Tweet: take a look at our free whitepaper on tapping the power of social media and video.
- Check out this blog post on my takeaways from the Guardian Changing Media Summit and see my presentation here.