Social networks boost television viewing

Article  by  Julia COULIBALY  •  Published 15.11.2011  •  Updated 15.11.2011
[NEWS] This year’s edition of MIPCOM, an annual television and entertainment market held October 3-6 in Cannes, was an opportunity for industry players to reflect on the changes taking place in television brought on by the upsurge of the Web 2.0.

There was a time when experts and players in the broadcast industry were worried that the Internet would replace the small screen. Audience fragmentation brought on by the advent of the Internet, as well as an increasingly complex range of television services, was seen as one of the reasons for the predicted demise of television.

But it seems those days are over. At MIPCOM (the world television and entertainment content market), Anne Sweeney, co-chairman of Disney Media Networks, told Le Figaro in an interview that “social networks are boosting television viewing.” Even if, as of recent, consumers have been gathering information using a variety of different media, this phenomenon has not occurred alongside an inevitable and gradual decrease in time spent watching television. On the contrary, audience ratings have grown continuously in recent years, thanks to the phenomenal success of large sporting events and award ceremonies broadcast throughout the world.
 

MIPCOM / Flickr - Daragh Ward

A few of the principal broadcasting groups – including Walt Disney Television and ABC – have gradually started to understand that the growth of the Internet will not necessary be at the expense of their audience ratings: Web and television are complementary. Many studies have indeed shown that consumers are able to multi-task, using both forms of media at the same time. In a survey carried out last August by Deloitte, half of those asked stated that they surfed the web while watching television, and 54% were connected to a social network. A study by Nielsen published on October 13 showed that around 40% of tablet and smartphone owners used their device while watching television. In 29% of cases, they were looking for information about the program they were watching, and in 42% of cases, they were surfing on social network sites.

What do they do on these sites? They share information and simultaneously make comments about the programs they are watching. In this way, social networks perpetuate the social role of television, increasing the long-established influence of word-of-mouth communication, and make it more interesting to follow a live show. On Twitter, the act of commenting on a program has taken off and is now referred to as a Live Tweet; Web users, presenters, and now even actual television channels are joining in. Occasionally, viewers can interact live with people on the show. For example, Guy A. Lepage responds to tweets while the Canadian version of the talk show Tout le Monde en Parle is being broadcast.

Alongside non-specialized social networks like Twitter and Facebook, a number of sites and applications dedicated to television and cinema content have been set up. These include the websites check-in TV and recommendation sites such as GetGlue and Miso as well as TweetYourTV and Jakaa in France. According to Anne Sweeney, “We have never spoken more about television than today!

Sharing and recommending programs have both turned into fundamental activities capable of stimulating audiences via social networks, and help to create a loyal and committed fan base for these programs. In addition to Facebook groups or traditional specialist forums, channels are starting to become aware of the incredible viral force of Internet memes [+]       NoteAn image, video, hyperlink, phrase, or simply an idea that quickly spreads over the Internet via social networks, blogs, image boards, etc. A simple idea, with funny content, that is reproducible, modifiable, and which refers to popular culture or a news event. Example of the most well-known Internet memes: the lolcats, Rickrolling, “All Your Base Are Belong To us”X      [1]generated on image boards such as 4chan[+] NoteAnonymous bulletin board for sharing images. 4chan, created by Christopher Poole in 2003, is now the largest meme.X [2] (or its own version, Canv.as[+] NoteSocial network site that generates Internet memes created by Christopher Poole, the founder of 4chan. Members can publish and tinker with the images. Unlike an image board, Canvas requires users to register, and the message content is archived.X [3]), and the number of variations is limitless.

This range of activities consolidates and spreads the notoriety of a series, a programme, or a cartoon. Some programmes owe their success to the buzz about them on the Internet. This is the case for the world in which the animated adaptation My Little Pony is set. “My Little Pony: friendship is magic!” was broadcast on a news channel called Hub in October 2010. Following the publication of aa pertinent article, many 4channers NoteUsers of de 4chanX [4][+] NoteUsers of de 4chanX [5], called bronies, became besotted with the programme. Its success spread uncontrollably over the Internet, beyond the initial target audience.


My Little Pony / Know Your Meme

The public sometimes rediscovers programs from the past that went almost completely unnoticed during their first broadcasts on television. This was the case with Channel 4 when it introduced the series “Garth Marenghi's Darkplace” (cancelled because of low audience figures) on DVD following its formidable success on the Internet.

In addition to the ability of social networks to maintain audience figures, Web 2.0 technology is also transforming production practices and the way people watch television. SmartTV and the development of transmedia content show how new strategies are being put in place by players in the traditional value chain[+] NotePlayers in the broadcasting industry are involved interdependently in the production stage, as well as in aggregation, distribution, broadcasting and consumption.X [6]. Television, which has become conversational, interactive, participative, and multi-screen, is changing so much that some are indeed wondering where it is actually headed. The new services now available, and the new models that have been built are tending to converge towards what is referred to as Social TV, one of the most important emerging technologies according to the MIT Technology Review and the magazine Wired.

The advent of Social TV raises a number of issues, the first being how they will bring in revenue. As audiences have become fragmented, there has been a move towards offline television services where viewers can watch programs after they were broadcast, either by paying for them (VOD) or for free (catch-up). This trend, by limiting the role of the intermediary (by creating a direct link between content producers and consumers) and the channel’s ability to set the rules, is a potential threat to economic models based on advertising income. If social networks are indeed “giving a boost to television viewing,” is it the television content provided by traditional companies that is providing the boost, or that which is produced by new-comers? The effects of the production of amateur content and the rise of new distribution channels outside the commercial sphere remain to be analyzed.

Translated from the French by Peter Moss

--
  Photo credits: Flickr - paz.ca
  • 1. An image, video, hyperlink, phrase, or simply an idea that quickly spreads over the Internet via social networks, blogs, image boards, etc. A simple idea, with funny content, that is reproducible, modifiable, and which refers to popular culture or a news event. Example of the most well-known Internet memes: the lolcats, Rickrolling, “All Your Base Are Belong To us”
  • 2. Anonymous bulletin board for sharing images. 4chan, created by Christopher Poole in 2003, is now the largest meme.
  • 3. Social network site that generates Internet memes created by Christopher Poole, the founder of 4chan. Members can publish and tinker with the images. Unlike an image board, Canvas requires users to register, and the message content is archived.
  • 4.
  • 5. Users of de 4chan
  • 6. Players in the broadcasting industry are involved interdependently in the production stage, as well as in aggregation, distribution, broadcasting and consumption.
Would you like to add or correct something? Contact the editorial staff