Wednesday, August 10, 2011

TV or Not TV, That is the (Social) Question

The profound changes in broadcast television began, arguably, with RatherGate, where bloggers essentially took down one of the so-called "Wise Men" ushering in momentus change. Historians of the future may note that event as one of the first and most profound instances of Social TV.

It is not accidental that the evening news, the least profitable broadcast network division with the most elderly skewing demographic, took the first digital hit. They took it for the team. Further, CBS, the most vulnerable of the Big Three, was the gladiatorial fundament in which such an event had to happen. Six years later, Scott Pelley -- the CBS Evening news' second anchor after Rather's exit -- is making one-third what his predecessor, Katie Couric made. A relative market assessment of the value of the anchor in its twilight?

Network television itself hasn't fared much better in these intervening years. As noted in The Daily Beast:

The fall of 2004 kicked off a television season that brought us some of the biggest hits of the last decade, launching Lost, Desperate Housewives, Grey’s Anatomy, and House. Seven years later, those supernovas are either burning out or dead altogether, victims of audience fatigue or oversight, as their once-huge numbers dwindled year after year.

Enter into the vacuum -- Social TV.

image via mashable
 Even as cable cutting is on the rise -- 193,000 people stopped paying for TV last quarter -- the social TV app space is heating up:

This month, Trendrr also compared broadcast network performance with June, 2011. Every broadcast network, with the exception of NBC, rose for the month of July. NBC lost 22% of its social share in July, 2011. This makes sense, when we consider that NBC’s The Voice, the most social show on TV in June, ended its first season at the end of June.
For July, the most social broadcast network was Fox, with 27% of the social share. CBS and NBC follow quickly behind with 26% and 25% social share, respectively.

Here are three takeaways that I came away with from the June and July Trendrr social TV statistics:

Social TV = Young and Interactive Programming

Viacom really gets social TV on the cable side. Basketball Wives, Teen Wolf and the BET Awards -- which drew over 1.4 million impressions in June -- were all successful examples of social TV. In June, BET was the top cable network by social activity, followed by MTV. The BET Awards, which propelled the network in June, was a perfect storm of young and interactive. That a single event could propel a cable network to the top in social is quite interesting and the MTV Music Video awards are very well situated indeed if that continues to be the case.

Then again, Viacom, on the cable side, skews very young. MTV, with its marquee demographic, will probably continue program social-friendly programming a la Teen Wolf. And CBS -- Viacom's network entity -- is #2, behind Fox.

Storytelling Matters

Another interesting surprise: HBO. HBO, which programs more highbrow -- or at least higher brow fare than VH1 and MTV -- is doing quite well in social. Social TV, it would appear, is not entirely "demographically young" and "interactive." There is also space at the table for really fucking good storytelling, which HBO does. Which leads me to:

Good Social TV is Fan-Driven TV

The Simpsons, Family Guy, Glee -- plus, via their books -- True Blood (the Sookie Stackhouse series) and Game of Thrones all have rabid fans that flock to the social networks. The success of True Blood and Game of Thrones suggests that books -- old media -- with a rabid fan base may be perfect vehicles with which to wrap a hugely social cable show around. Programmers take note.

Avids create communities. HBO, in particular, has been good at creating community and fostering social TV (think: HBO's Real Time which continues the conversation after the show). IFC -- where I am now a contributing writer -- has also gone leagues by way of fashioning a community particular to its audience.

And, curiously, as social TV app space heats up, no one still has the magic formula among the start ups in the space. From AdWeek's Anthony Ha:

"I don't think anyone in this space has fundamentally got it right," (Miso CEO Somrat Niyogi) said.

And yes, he's including Miso in that statement, too. Niyogi said that's why his Google Ventures-backed startup is trying to experiment with new features (such as reality TV voting) as quickly as it can.

Reality TV voting and check ins are smart experiments along the journey, but they are only partial realizations of the full potential of the ultimate social TV. It is still the wild west out there, which only makes the space that much more exciting to observe.

1 comment:

Josiah said...

It's all erroneous the thing you are saying.
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