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Social TV is being touted as the next big thing, and millions of consumers are jumping on board, and TV operators are finally starting to pay attention
Even though the level of conversation is still in the growth stages in the UK, it demonstrates the solid potential of social TV. Perhaps operators should start thinking how they can capitalise on the conversations that are already happening, or at a bare minimum monitoring conversation levels. When certain episodes have a huge spike in tweets, TV executives should be taking note and figuring out why.
The Virtual Water Cooler Gathers on Twitter
It is becoming increasingly clear that Twitter has become a force that is drawing viewers back to live TV – especially for major TV events. According to Robin Sloan from Twitter, tweets only really happen during the live event;
"As soon as a new episode premieres or the Oscars start or a game kicks off, the tweets per minute skyrocket and we see it multiply 10, 20, 50 times and it stays like this until the show ends."
So far, most of the buzz about Twitter and TV about Twitter has been associated with big blockbuster TV events, like the Super Bowl, Oscars, and MTV Music Awards. In fact, this year's Super Bowl— the most watched television event in history with 162.9 million viewers — was also the most tweeted sporting event ever.
Twitter users sent more than 4,000 tweets per second the moment the game ended, breaking a record set during last year's World Cup.
However by creating virtual water coolers, live viewing can also be driven for different genres of TV shows. When Bravo created a real-time water cooler, dubbed the 'Bravo Talk Bubble,' they found that it delivered a 10% lift to The Real Housewives of New York. Similarly, when Oxygen Media piloted a "social viewing party" for Bad Girls Club viewers on the East Coast, ratings went up 92%. The same show on the West Coast, which didn't have a social viewing party, only went up 14%, according to a Twitter case study.
Social TV Behaviour Varies by Genre
Social TV behaviour happens with viewers watching all kinds of TV programming- not just big TV events. However, how viewers interact with each genre tends to vary.
Soaps and drama programmes are consistently the most tweeted TV genres in the UK. TV Genius research has shown that the most tweeted about dramas are The Only Way is Essex, EastEnders, and Coronation Street. People tweeting about these shows seem to identify personally with the characters, and comment on the action as it happens:
Compared to soap operas, news shows display a very different tweeting pattern. Viewers of soap operas tend to tweet on a consistent basis each time a new episode airs, with few huge spikes.
News shows are a different story.
TV Genius research found that tweets for news programmes vary hugely each night.For instance, tweets for the programme Newsnight vary between zero and thousands of tweets each night depending on who is interviewed and how contentious the evening's news is. When Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats in the UK, was interviewed a people flooded Twitter with their political opinions:
Unexpectedly, the research also found that movies playing on TV regularly trend. However, like with the news, movies only tend to get high levels of tweets when they are particularly interesting. Not every film playing during the evening receives many tweets. Movies that play on a rolling basis like the Sky Movies channels don't ever generate a following on Twitter. The movies don't seem to ever garner a lot of attention at any one point because they are not a group event – people can tune in throughout the day to watch the same movie.
Tweets for films don't display the same emotional investment as soaps and on-going dramas- instead people seem to just enjoy tweeting that they too are watching the film:
Tweets about sport tend to trace the emotional highs and lows of the event. There are usually huge spikes when goals are scored, game-changing penalties are given, and during the closing moments of a match. Last weekend, the Formula 1 Malaysian Grand Prix (3,600 tweets), the Golf Masters (360 tweets), and Match of the Day (720 tweets) all featured heavily on Twitter. The people tweeting about sports tend to be passionately involved, taking the opportunity to provide running commentary as the event plays out:
It's clear that social TV is already happening in a big way across a variety of genres in the UK. As a result, operators have started testing different approaches to social TV.
For example, the US channel HBO ran the Howard Stern movie Private Parts with Stern himself commenting live on Twitter throughout the broadcast. Similarly, in late March the BBC News put #BBCBudget on air just before and just after the UK Chancellor's budget speech, generating a huge tweet spike. By centralising conversation around the hashtag, they easily curated related content onto their web portals.
These two examples demonstrate how seriously the TV industry is starting to take the social TV trend. Whatever approach ends up driving ratings and engagement, social TV looks like it will be one of the key trends for TV operators to tap into this year. After all- viewers are already there, it is just a matter of operators catching up and caching in.
Emma blogs for TV Genius over at the TV Trends Blog. TV Genius is a software company that has specialised in TV content discovery, recommendations, search, and interactive TV guides since 2005.