Thursday, 24 March 2011

Tweeting with the TV on-The synthesis of Television and social networking

"The days of families reverentially gathered around the box may be long gone but the doom-mongers who said that on-demand would kill linear TV completely may also be so off the mark.

A new generation of viewers is watching what has been dubbed social TV - a synthesis between TV and social networking.

A recent study from marketing agency Digital Clarity found that 80% of under-25s used a second screen to communicate with friends while watching TV and 72% used Twitter, Facebook or a mobile app to comment on shows.

Currently it is little more sophisticated than watching TV with one eye on Twitter or Facebook, but that is beginning to change as TV executives start to experiment with greater social networking integration.

In New Zealand, TVNZ has just launched a new youth channel which sees Facebook heavily integrated to create an interactive entertainment and music show.

The backbone of the schedule is U live, a show that features chat and commentary driven by a Facebook app. It includes profile pictures, comments and polling activity which automatically become part of the programme.

Last month the US channel HBO ran the Howard Stern movie Private Parts with Stern himself commenting live on Twitter throughout the broadcast.

Twitter bosses are excited about the possibilities of deeper integration with TV, although they are still in the process of figuring out how they will make money from it.

Speaking at Mobile World Congress, Twitter chief executive Dick Costolo claimed that the search for the TV industry's holy grail - a second screen - was over.

"That second screen is Twitter," he said.

The hope is that the conversations started on Twitter can be carried on, and even shaped by TV executives, although how far this will alienate tweeters is open to debate.

According to a Nielsen mobile study, more than 85% of mobile and PC users access the web while watching TV.

But only 24% were looking at content related to the TV programme, while others used it to text family and friends (56%), visit social networks (40%) and browse unrelated content (37%).

Robin Sloan, from Twitter's media partnership team, thinks there is definitely an appetite among the Twitterati for more integration.

He told BBC News that the service saw huge spikes in traffic when certain shows were on - soap operas, live sporting events and reality shows.

"It's remarkable because the Twitter conversation will be going along a few tweets here and there and 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."

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