In today's multimedia age, audiences have endless choices for when and where to consume entertainment. Television networks are churning out new series trying to deliver the next programming phenomenon, while audience attention is also being drawn to the Web and mobile devices for viewing video content. Needless to say, the competition for eyeballs and ad dollars is fierce across all platforms all year long.
According to recent Nielsen research, Americans spend nearly a quarter of their time on the Web on social-networking sites and blogs. Therefore, understanding TV viewers' habits online and creating campaigns that can be accessed and shared through social networks are key to extending the life of a programming brand during the off season.
The nominees for this year's Primetime Emmy for Interactive Media Awards provide some great examples of how Web tools can be used to successfully keep audiences engaged on all screens. Showtime's "Dexter" Interactive was nominated for its cumulative package of digital offerings, including a Facebook application allowing users to get their images slashed like Dexter's victims to unlock exclusive content for the upcoming season.
The Web also helps television shows stay relevant once they're off the air by appealing to audiences' multitasking habits through experiences that integrate the episodes with regular online activities. A Nielsen study conducted earlier this year showed that people spent an average of 3.5 hours on the computer while watching TV in one month, which was an increase of one hour from six months earlier.
As TV brands expand across platforms, there is even more opportunity for fans to engage with their favorite characters and shows. Although audiences have always had a strong affinity for television content, the Internet now allows them to actually become the content.
Another Interactive Media Emmy nominee, "The Biggest Loser" Digital Experience, shows that the audience's involvement with a brand through user-generated content and crowd-sourcing is not limited to seasonal time constraints and can take on a life of its own. Inviting viewers to assemble a team and join The Biggest Loser League online to meet their own health and fitness goals, "The Biggest Loser" brand is extended by engaging a community around a programming-driven cause.
Looking at these examples, it is clear that as the traditional television model shifts and adapts to consumer habits, networks and media companies are dedicating more and more effort and resources to their Web initiatives to ensure audiences remain engaged even without new episodes on TV. Social media offerings, immersive experiences and crowd-sourcing are all effective devices for maintaining brand awareness and keeping programs top of mind throughout the endless season.