The State of TV Television conference held this week as part of NYC’s Television Week explored the impact of the crowd on advertising, sports, online, broadcast and cable. Does it shift the business model away from the predictability of what is and what is not "successful" content? And what does successful mean anymore: Ratings? Affection? Acceleration? Does the expansion of platform choices cannibalize or complement media choices? The answers may surprise you.
Twitter is an interesting example. According to Deb Roy, the company’s chief media scientist, Twitter harnesses the crowd in a way that multiplies and enhances the impact of live television. "Attention is steered by the visible crowd," Roy explained. "Twitter is live, public and conversational, enabling you to talk in the moment when you want people to hear you." This creates an amplification of engagement, the same way that human behavior of everyday crowds can sway action. An example: If you have a growing group of people standing on a street looking up, the number of passersby who also stop and look up increases.
In examining user flow data, Roy demonstrated how Twitter is able to amplify the impact of compelling water-cooler content by providing a social connective element to the sequential event experience of television. A virtual tidal wave of impressions, measurable via Nielsen, is driven through the Twitter universe in real time during an especially engaging telecast (such as sports). The resulting engagement metric, live reach, provides a cross-model communication that bridges TV and Twitter. "People use tweets to talk", he said. "So watching TV without Twitter is like watching TV with the sound off." (See a video of Roy's explanation here.)
Twitters audience amplification is not limited to text. It is also possible to embed small video clips to a tweet highlighingt a particularly exciting moment in the telecast. This reformatting of content also offers opportunities for in-context pre-roll advertising. So rather than siphoning viewers’ attention, it could be said that Twitter enhances and expands the TV viewing experience by optimizing the potential of the enthusiastic crowd.
Of course, this is much more effective with live television. Time-shifted viewing doesn't spur the synchronistic conversation in the same way or to the same effect. The burden is on content providers to offer TV content so compelling that must be seen live in-the-moment in order to fully engage in the cultural zeitgeist. Just as comedy is funnier when you can hear other people laughing, there is a multiplier effect to great content that was unmeasureable before social media.
Who would have thought that, even five years ago, the proliferation of platforms and social media applications could enhance and multiply the impact of linear TV? TV is not only thriving, it is expanding in its influence and in its value to advertisers and brands.