It's time for brand marketers to engage with and embrace interactive TV, Smart TV, Social TV — whatever you want to call it. The fundamental way we are watching content has changed and marketers have to shift their planning and strategies to meet new audience viewing habits.
Watching TV online and interacting via social networks is becoming the new at-home leisure activity among TV viewers. More than 145 million people in the U.S. will watch TV online by 2017, notes an eMarketer 2013 chart. That's a year-on-year rise of about 7 percent.
Instead of a passive viewing experience, today’s TV viewers are watching multiple screens, often at the same time. A Spring 2013 Nielsen study showed a relationship between the rise in those tweeting about a TV show and its TV ratings. The study showed that a show's premiere episode ratings improved by 1 percent with the 18-34 yr.-old demographic when there was a 8.5 percent uptick in tweets. There was also a similar percentage increase in 35-49 year-old viewer ratings with a comparable 14 percent increase in Twitter activity.
Today’s content viewing is growing into a social, active experience, where we share program links with friends and family on social networks. We’re checking out advertisers and brands on Facebook, getting info from on-demand TV providers like ClearTVBundle.com and sending feedback to TV program makers.
Better Advertiser Tools
As a result of this viewing shift, marketers are creating better tools to target individuals and TV viewing households. This is creating more promise for interactive TV viewed over a laptop or mobile device.
Calif.-based firm Audible Magic has launched software to help content programmers see in real time what viewers are watching and, in turn, provide more focused ad experiences, with viewer surveys, pop-up ads and more. The software gives programmers the opportunity to tailor messages to the platform, writes SV411.com. For example, if you watch travel content on an iPad or a Slingbox, the Audible Magic software can deliver a pop-up ad for a travel discount, schedule info or more. It's a tailored experience for the new viewing generation.
TV Programmers and Social Networks
A recent keynote speech at the SES New York show by Mike Prouix, Sr. VP and director of social media for Hill Holliday, offered insights on the new viewing habits for programmers and advertisers. He suggested that marketers and programmers must collaborate to create engaging viewer experiences. They must use compelling content, coupled with social media marketing, to drive buzz for a TV show or live event. Prouix noted how, during TV’s biggest live event — the Super Bowl 2013 — several brands moved their messages to social media during the blackout to continue the conversation with fans.
Social TV Brand examples
Live sports events seem to have the best opportunity to pull in fans using social media. The Super Bowl is the obvious example, but there are others. One is the National Basketball Association's NBA Challenge, where hoops fans played online games during live telecasts throughout the season. Fans with knowledge of players and teams played against each other and the experts to score points and win exposure on the game’s leaderboard.
Social media site Convince & Convert noted several other examples of social TV interactions via our second screens:
- "American Idol" uses social networks and call-in capabilities to vote for contestants.
- "Glee" fans tweet endlessly about their favorite characters and moments from the show, while the show’s iPad app gives viewers new digital content and more engagement opportunities.
- "Bones" viewers are very active on their second screens during the TV season. They interact via Twitter and the "Bones" Facebook page, discussing plot points, character development and upcoming episodes.
It’s clear there will be further engagement between TV shows, fans and their social networks.
Cautions for Marketers
One pitfall in making TV shows and brands too social is the overflow of tweets during particular shows. When Twitter users are all communicating about a certain program using a particular hashtag, the torrent of tweets can turn into an overload of comments that no human can possibly keep up with.
This issue came to the forefront when social network users were communicating about the #Grammys or #SuperBowl2013. When hundreds of thousands of users tweeted with these hashtags, they made it impossible for brands to take stock of what was happening online. It may become a bigger issue in the future.
It’s certainly exciting to see the rise in TV viewers tuning into second screens while watching TV at home. All eyes will be on how TV programmers, social networks and other industry powers manage this new viewing paradigm during the rest of the year.