As much as we label TV a lean-back medium, there are strong opposing forces that are appealing to viewers’ desire to get more out of their TV experience. I’m finding myself more and more inclined (not reclined!) to engage with what I’m watching.  Social TV via the second screen is driving this new experience with TV. In last month’s Trending Topics session, #SocialTV, we explored this exciting trend that is transforming the TV ecosystem and how brands communicate within it for good.

Wikipedia’s definition of social TV is “technology that supports communication and social interaction in either the context of watching television or related to TV content.” Simply put, it is the merging of social media and television. Social TV can take many forms, from following a unique program hashtag (#Homeland, anyone?) to seeing what fans are saying to taking action by voting for a favorite judge on The X Factor. Viewers can also check into a show with apps like GetGlue or Viggle for more content or to earn rewards like badges and discounts. And it’s catching on. According to a Gfk report, 41% of tablet owners’ TV time involves two-screen viewing. Additionally, Accenture reported in April that one in three viewers have interacted with social media after seeing a social media symbol on TV.

Content owners are eager to facilitate higher engagement in their programming through social channels. It seems that you can’t watch a show without a host or an invitation to take action on a social platform. Check out NBC’s The Voice, and you’ll see one of the most robust examples of social integration. It has truly become an integral part of the television experience.

But what’s really compelling is the power of social media to drive live TV viewership. Who would have thought in the age of On Demand, DVRs and streaming video options that we would stumble on a giant behavioral shift that actually drives viewership of TV? This was proven during the 2012 Summer Olympics where, despite the delayed programming, viewership of the encore broadcasts on NBC actually increased over 2008. According to eMarketer, the airing of Gabby Douglas’s all-around gymnastics performance generated 38K tweets per minute versus the 7K tweets during her live streaming performance earlier in the day. NBC reported a 12% higher viewership than in Beijing, and social media played an important role in that success.

Social TV’s effect on live viewership provides a great vote of confidence to TV advertisers. But just how attentive are we anxious couch potatoes during the show and especially during commercial breaks, when viewers are more likely to attend to that iPad on their lap? The complexity of today’s TV ecosystem and viewer experience before, during and after a TV program are important considerations for agencies and brands as they strive to maintain and even build on the effectiveness of this medium. The opportunity in today’s crosschannel, multitasking world is to explore campaign extensions with original branded or publisher (NBC, CBS, USA, etc.) co-branded, second-screen experiences or second-screen apps, software or even having device manufacturers align with a specific program or network.

No doubt, the intersection of TV and social is ripe with exciting opportunities for advertisers!  #areyouin

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