It’s obvious why TV producers and network executives love real-time engagement: It means people are watching. To quote Paul Telegdy, president of alternative and late night programming at NBC: “We are literally putting the power in the hands of our viewers, granting them a direct way to affect the fate of the artists competing during the live telecast.” Now, this won’t halt the trend toward time-shifted viewing, but it will make live scheduled viewing a premium product to sell above and alongside on-demand consumption. It will also have a profound impact on how we create, schedule and sell television content: Viewers can be quantified and monetized beyond simply an aggregate ratings value.
Another challenge facing real-time engagement: those pesky time zones. I doubt the federal government will turn the U.S. into a single time zone, but are we that far off from networks simply playing out event TV programming (such as competition shows) in one broadcast as they currently do with sports and major awards shows? If you’re a time-shifter in any case, what difference would this make, other than to make the live experience that much better for folks who want to watch that way, (and advertisers who want to buy that way)?
Ah, advertisers. For all the challenges to the model of television, marketing dollar commitment is still driving the monetization train (and will for the foreseeable future), albeit with more metrics than just Nielsen-metered homes. The benefits to advertisers and sponsors of real-time audience interactivity are obvious: If they can marry the ability of TV for mass-scale brand awareness with personalization, digital activation and, ultimately, “transactions,” then this is close to nirvana for most advertisers. It’s also likely to result in major changes in how advertising is packaged and sold over time, which could take the form of:
Putting tweets or posts to air is a very basic example, but we already know that allowing viewers to truly impact the on-air narrative, such as with the “Instant Save” mentioned earlier, drives engagement tenfold. Better viewer engagement translates to increased brand recall, as well as a deeper relationship and information about audience behavior, so we expect to see an increase in mechanics that drive viewers to participate in all types of broadcast content.