TV’s Future Is in Its Engaged Audience and Their Second Screens

In order to regain viewers, traditional television networks have explored various formats in order to remain relevant in the entertainment industry. This has included releasing their material on their own streaming services, online platforms, and launching social media campaigns. The results of these attempts have been varied.

It is likely that television will not regain the same level of popularity it once had. Nevertheless, this does not mean the end for the medium. Producers and broadcasters have the opportunity to engage with their audience more effectively, which could be achieved by forming strategic partnerships with social media sites, an approach which is becoming more widespread.

An Explosion of Second-Screen Culture

It is essential to adapt to the changing viewer behavior in order to make the most of the promising new television market. Since the emergence of social media, users have become accustomed to expressing their thoughts and views to a larger range of people, including friends and family, as well as companies and celebrities.

The increased prevalence of social media has seen viewers become more deliberate in their choice of media and how they interact with it. Streaming services have enabled consumers to watch media when they wish, leading to a rise in interactive experiences, which has unfortunately had a detrimental effect on passive activities such as watching television.

Nowadays, it is widely known that social media conversations happen in real-time while a programme or event is airing. We refer to this phenomenon as ‘second screens’. It is now commonplace for viewers to engage with a second device, usually a smartphone, while watching, to check their social media feeds and post comments about what they are viewing.

The watercooler has been replaced by social media, particularly Twitter. Rather than waiting to discuss what they have watched until they arrive at work, people are now engaging in real-time conversations about the content they are consuming. It is easy to recall the surge of activity on Twitter when a highly anticipated programme was released, whether it was a live broadcast or an on-demand service.

The trend of using a ‘second screen’ has become increasingly widespread, extending beyond services such as video-on-demand. Live broadcasts of major events, such as news and the Super Bowl, are commonly discussed on social media, a phenomenon which has been around for some time. The prevalence of secondary displays appears to be a long-term development, and may even be beneficial for traditional TV networks.

Increasing Popularity of Social Media on TV

As social media has become an integral part of a unified viewing experience across a variety of platforms and devices, broadcasters have the potential to significantly expand their product portfolio in this direction. Over the last few years, many such attempts have been made, but with limited success. Does this mean we should not get our hopes up and that the golden opportunity is really a mirage? This is not necessarily accurate.

Figuring out how to incorporate conventional television providers’ content with the real-time commentary capabilities that social media is renowned for is a challenge. In fact, this is the aim of a number of businesses currently.

Twitter recently made a significant announcement regarding a major worldwide agreement with ViacomCBS, a renowned media and entertainment organization. As part of the arrangement, ViacomCBS will be providing Twitter with access to their extensive library of news, sports, live events, TV series and franchises for broadcasting on the platform.

ViacomCBS is taking advantage of Twitter’s second-screen features by hosting Twitter Watch Parties. Social interactions help to drive demand for on-demand services, so the entertainment giant is providing these events on its own streaming platform, Paramount+.

Twitter recently renewed their agreement with NBCUniversal, which was due to expire in 2023. This collaborative effort between NBCUniversal and Twitter is akin to the partnership with ViacomCBS, in which NBCUniversal supplies the content and Twitter supplies the technology to broadcast it.

These collaborations demonstrate the potential of social television in the future. This offers advantages for both traditional media, which seeks to increase its viewership, and its viewers, as social media platforms can be used to amplify the extensive range of content provided by established companies. This allows viewers to actively engage and comment on what they watch.

Going Deeper Than We Seem

It is clear that there is more to be said about cross-device viewing experiences. We are now seeing the emergence of social networking features within on-demand streaming services, however, the possibilities for the future are vast. It is an exciting prospect to explore the potential of using wearables, virtual assistants, hub applications, VR/AR, multiscreen, and metaverse technologies for consumption, sharing, and interaction.

It may be argued that social television has had ample time to gain traction but has yet to do so and may never do so. Whilst this may be true, it is worth noting that the entertainment industry was markedly different a decade ago before the rise of social media. The initial requirements for social television have now been fulfilled, and further advancements in technology may help to overcome the remaining challenges.

As television viewing habits have been changing over time, broadcasters should take this into consideration and strive to create a more unified viewing experience which takes advantage of the latest technology and caters to the needs of a more tech-savvy, engaged audience.

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