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Social Media and What It Means for the TV Experience

This month, we asked participants to describe how they usually watch TV: do they usually watch alone or with others? Is there specific content that they tend to watch more with others? And, what does the shared viewing experience mean to them?

Here’s what they had to say:

About one-quarter (25-30%) of participants say TV is typically a solitary experience for them; about 15-20% say it is normally a social event for them. Over a third (35-40%) say it can be both solitary or social, depending on the content and their mood; and about 10-15% say that they often watch with their significant other, but do not necessarily consider it “social.”

The one genre that stands out is sports: more than half (55-60%) say they prefer watching sports with others, and about 15-20% say that TV is usually a solitary experience except for sports.

“Being a primarily social person most other times of the day, I keep my TV watching pretty much a private affair. I have a set schedule of shows that I watch regularly, and I treat myself to TV as my “alone” time.” – 25-34 year-old Black Male

“Typically I watch television alone, but I tend to watch sporting events with other people. When I watch my favorite shows (Criminal Minds, etc) I don’t like a lot of noise or commotion, but watching sporting events in large groups is more entertaining than watching alone.” – 25-34 year-old Black Female

For many, a “shared viewing experience” still means sitting down with friends, family, or loved ones and watching a show together. However, the idea of a “shared viewing experience” is evolving as TV viewers take advantage of texting, social media, and online forums while watching TV. About 10-15% of participants say that they engage in some form of interaction, including posting on Facebook, tweeting, or using another type of digital communication, about a TV show or movie (both in real-time and after).

“While it’s not extremely important to me to spend time watching these shows with others, I do find myself chatting online or sending texts to other folks I know also watch them to discuss what’s going on. This is especially true of reality-type shows where there are contestants and you’re rooting for a team to win.” – 25-34 year-old White Male

“A shared viewing experience has changed for me over the past few months. When my wife and I sit down to watch the Voice, she gets on her cell phone and starts texting with her cousin. It’s come down to a point where she rushes home from work just so they can go back and forth about what’s going on in the show. Before, i would think that you would have to be in the same room, watching the show together for it to be considered a shared viewing experience. Now I’m realizing that it’s more than that.” – 25-34 year-old Hispanic Male

A couple also note that interacting via Skype or Justin.tv (a website that streams live content) helps them keep in touch with friends and loved ones, and allows them to enjoy TV content together, apart.

“I miss the days when I would watch TV with friends and actually have them there. However, the ease of using Skype / justin.tv and things like that add a whole new sense of community when watching things. I do enjoy real time typing and chat rooms while watching these. […] I have friends serving in the military that I rarely get to see and hang out with in person. Using Skype to watch shows together lets us talk as if he or she were really “there”, I know it sounds really corny and not many people do this…but it is just fun to actually talk during slow moments in shows here and there.” – 25-34 year-old Hispanic Male

Last Thoughts

These findings from our Consumer Voice Community speak to the true power of social media and its evolving role in the promotion of television content and as an enhancement to the viewing experience. Social media is the ultimate television companion: Today’s viewers are communicating with communities of other fans wherever they may be, sometimes friends and relatives, sometimes, total strangers, with whom they share a common bond around a TV show, event, or personality.

Walking though the Cable Show floor this week, and having presented at Imagine Park where I got to see first-hand some of the cool, new technologies that are on the horizon, it became immediately evident that we are entering into a completely new world when it comes to the TV experience. TV will no doubt get even more personalized, even more social, and even more intrinsic to our lives and routines. The technologies of the very new future will make it seamless to port our favorite content wherever, interact with or about it socially on the spot, and share it with others- all of which we know from our research (and personal experiences!) enhances the viewing experience and drives loyalty to the show and network brand. In fact, social media in particular is starting to play a role in driving viewers back to live (or at least almost live) TV, so that they can enjoy it with others, albeit virtually (and avoid Facebook spoilers!).

I, for one, am very excited to see what’s to come. Yes, it is probably true that the set-top box is “going the way of the Dodo bird,” as TWC CEO Glenn Britt confirmed at The Cable Show, but replacing it are amazing new technologies that will keep consumers connected—to their favorite content, to their provider, and to each other. – Adriana Waterston, VP, Marketing & Business Development.

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