Are you guilty of calling up Carson Daly in the early 2000’s and requesting a song on MTV’s show, Total Request Live? MTV is just one early example of viewers interacting with television. American Idol has also been notorious for enabling fans call in or text to vote for their favorite contestant for nearly a decade, but with the growing popularity of social media, we’re seeing an expansion of audience participation and networks are taking it a step further.
Not only are people requesting music and voting for their favorite talent, –online and through smartphones –but now audiences can interact directly with the stars and other fans, participate in contests and polls, and discuss show predictions, all while watching the show using their smartphones and tablets. This is called Social TV or Second Screen.
Social television is almost essential nowadays. Fans expect to be able to tweet and post along with their favorite characters. Showtime, the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), and the teen network ABC Family are just three of the networks that do this flawlessly.
So what are these networks doing right?
Showtime has been known for producing quality content for years, but the network has since stepped it up with the introduction of the Showtime Sync App for iPad. The app encourages viewers to follow along with the app while watching their favorite shows like Dexter, Homeland, and Shameless. As long as the audio is enabled on your device, the app syncs with your television, and allows users to take polls, make predictions, and get exclusive content specific to the episode playing. Users can even test their knowledge of their favorite shows and characters by answering trivia questions.
Incorporating an insiders view through the use of blogging is one of the ways Oprah’s Lifeclass has captured the attention thousands of people. The show airs on the Oprah Winfrey Network and showcases Oprah’s life lessons and advice. Oprah elicited popular bloggers and gave them behind-the-scenes access to the show, so they could share their experiences with the world. Oprah also effectively uses Skype, a video communication system, to directly incorporate viewers into the television program. Viewers can call in and ask questions, discuss their fears, or share success stories.
The family channel, ABC Family flawlessly uses twitter to interact with fans (250,000+). Actors from the popular shows such as Pretty Little Liars and The Lying Game live tweet every episode that airs. Hashtags are even displayed (strategically, I might add) throughout the episode during suspenseful or unexpected moments in the plot, so that fans can take to twitter with their reactions. Viewers have direct access to their favorite characters/actors and are encouraged to ask questions, make predictions, and participate in contests –and are rewarded with real responses. The network has often used twitter as their primary platform to give fans updates about new characters, plot twists, and new television programs.
The driving forces behind social TV and second screen are companies like yap.TV, Get Glue, intoNow, Zeebox, and Blip.TV. The common theme among them surrounds the platforms they offer –apps allowing you to connect to online communities while watching your favorite shows. Let’s take a look at a few of the best.
Yap.TV is an online TV guide with Facebook and Twitter integration and provides content feeds and group chat capabilities. IntoNow uses your television’s audio to recognize which show and episode you are watching and delivers preprogrammed content, similar to the Showtime Sync App. Blip.TV has taken a different approach from the others and showcases content from up-and-coming and well-know producers. The content is anything from reviews to updates to predictions, etc in the form of videos. The platform also has popular social media integration.
These networks have certainly gained a loyal following and continue to stretch the boundaries of social media. Meanwhile the tech companies behind second screen continue to evolve, adding new capabilities & ways to engage over time. Fans are developing an even deeper relationship with the celebrities and characters they love. In what ways do you use social media to interact with your favorite television programs? What does this mean for the future of social TV? What will viewers expect next?
Until next time,
Kelli Richards, CEO of The All Access Group, LLC