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Four Ways Social Media Will Change TV

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When people mention the intersection of social media and TV, often the reaction is a knee-jerk exclamation of how they don’t want the constant stream of status updates and tweets creating a visual mess on their TV screens. After all, TV is the lean-back, decompress and wind-down part of our day. Who wants the real-time smog interfering with that?

But yesterday at NewTeeVee Live, Robin Sloan from Twitter talked about how Twitter is changing the TV viewing experience. Listening to him explain how Twitter is being integrated into, on top of and around video content and related campaigns, it became clear that Twitter — and social media more broadly — is becoming a critical method of content discovery, feedback and shared experience for TV today. While shared viewing and new content created by real-time web is part of how social media will change TV, the implications of social media integration in and around TV content will have a much bigger impact.

Below I analyze four major areas where social and real-time web will change the face of TV:

Curated Channels and Guides

While curation has really hit the web in a big way, curated TV is still much earlier in the cycle. Companies like Shortform and Redux allow people to create customized video mashups (today Shortform only has YouTube, but plans to expand to what sources it can). Right now, Twitter and Facebook offer web curation in the form of letting users recommend various forms of content to friends and followers, but it might one day be possible to create a curated video feed — Mike’s or, say, Ashton Kutcher’s — that is essentially a customized video channel.

Shared TV Experiences
While much of the early efforts around shared viewing have been a clunky imitation of Mystery Science Theater 3000, the real action today is happening on Twitter. As Sloan discussed at the event, the sheer volume of collective conversations at certain points (a tense moment, or one where a key plot point is revealed) in a viewing window really goes up on Twitter (see chart below). And unlike the “viewing parties” approach of, say, Xbox Live, the Twitter conversation really is a large party (a global watercooler, as they call it) where everyone can participate during the show itself.

Analytics for Viewing and Ad Campaigns

In the old days of the industry, Nielsen panels were the way TV measurement was done. Nielsen recruited families, the panels pushed buttons and TV was measured this way.

In today’s world of social and real-time web, TV show buzz and related advertising campaigns can be analyzed in real-time. We are only at the beginning of this, but increasingly using real-time measurement — whether it’s tweet volume or other conversational social media measurement — could displace the more tradtional methods, something Neilsen itself is well aware of (and trying to adjust its model for).

Picture 98

Source: Twitter

The chart above is from Sloan’s presentation and displays in-show volume of tweets for the first episode of Dancing with the Stars this season. It’s fascinating to see both the level of change and the regional differences, and this doesn’t even begin to unlock how keywords and other aspects could be analyzed.


Much of today’s talk about social commerce is around the traditional web; we have yet to really even understand how, for instance, social shopping could be done on TV. Combining  the power of social media around shopping experiences online — imagine QVC meets Groupon — would provide some very powerful opportunities for commerce on TV.

Clearly we are in the beginning of this fusion between social and TV, but over the next few years we’ll see a huge rush of existing players, along with emerging ones, explore opportunities in the four areas above.

Question of the week

How will social media integration change TV content?