TV taps social media for viewers | india | Hindustan Times
Today in New Delhi, India
Oct 21, 2017-Saturday
New Delhi
  • Humidity
  • Wind

TV taps social media for viewers

By the time the first ballot is opened at the Academy Awards next Sunday, millions of people will be chatting about the awards show on the Internet. And ABC will be ready. Brian Stelter reports.

india Updated: Feb 21, 2011 21:54 IST

By the time the first ballot is opened at the Academy Awards next Sunday, millions of people will be chatting about the awards show on the Internet. And ABC will be ready.

Trying to exploit viewers' two-screen behaviour, the television network has built a companion Web site with behind-the-scenes video streams: Oscar winners will be seen accepting an award on the TV, then seen celebrating backstage on the stream.

Experiments like this are a sudden priority in television land. As more and more people chat in real time about their favorite shows - on Facebook, Twitter and a phalanx of smaller sites - TV networks are trying to capitalise. It's as if people are gathered around the online water cooler, and television executives are nervously hovering nearby, hoping viewers keep talking and, by extension, watching their shows.

Experts like Ian Schafer, the chief executive of the digital agency Deep Focus, says Twitter and Facebook messages about shows may well be "the most efficient way to drive tune-in." Though it is hard to prove the link, Schafer sees it first-hand when a news segment catches his attention or a basketball game is in overtime. "I'll say on Twitter or Facebook, 'You have got to tune into 'Nightline' or '60 Minutes' right now,' and then people say, 'Oh, thanks for alerting,' " he said.

The water-cooler effect makes big shows even bigger. The Grammy Awards had its highest rating in a decade on Feb 13. But on the same day as the Grammys, Howard Stern had a stream of Twitter posts during a re-airing of his movie Private Parts. Suddenly, some people flipped over to HBO2 to follow along, and Twitter executives were thrilled. Adam Bain, one such executive, wrote, "This is what fiction TV producers should do every week."

Acts like Stern's make TV viewing more social, even if the viewers are in different places.

"In a sense, you are in the living room, watching together," said Jeff Probst, the host of "Survivor," who used Twitter to talk with fans during the show's season premiere last Wednesday while flying from New York to Los Angeles. Probst plans to make such viewing a weekly habit this season.

Television executives say the chats deepen viewers' interest in a show, making them more likely to watch next time. BET stunned its competitors last month when The Game, a sitcom about football players' relationships with women, drew more than seven million viewers, thanks in part to fevered online chatter.

Debra Lee, the chief executive of BET, said "we can now tell when something's a hit almost immediately - by seeing how many of the trending topics on Twitter belong to us."

Twitter generally lists 10 such trending words at a time, and in the evenings, television shows are well-represented.

Television networks as well as some technology companies, Twitter chief among them, see benefits to their business from this behavior. Dick Costolo, the chief executive of Twitter, said last week at a mobile conference in Barcelona that online conversations about TV shows turn the programmes into events, "meaning people watch them as they happen," blunting the impact of digital video recording.

He may have overstated the impact of Twitter - digital recording remains prevalent - but it is clear that many people feel they have to watch some shows as they premiere in order to keep up with conversations online.

And as tablets and smartphones become more prevalent, such behaviour is likely to become even more common.