Social media boosts TV ratings

This is a guest post by Guinevere Orvis. Guinevere is a Web Producer in Toronto, Canada working both freelance and in the broadcast industry for Alliance Atlantis, CTVglobemedia and currently CBC. She has 10 years experience in the online space and specializes in social media, online marketing and content production.

Social media boosts TV ratingsGuess what television? You may not love the internet, but the internet loves you. Stop sending us takedown notices!

Broadcasters have a dirty little secret. I work in broadcast and I’m gonna let you in on this secret, only because I love the internet and I’m tired of hearing it get blamed for TV’s woes.

While we’re unleashing our lawyers on social networks with slips of paper with big words like “copyright infringement”, we’re also taking in huge new audiences on air and online — social media is actually helping our bottom line. How much? In one major broadcaster’s case, an additional 200,000 viewers in just one month. That company even let their growth secret out of the bag, “YouTube has brought a significant new audience of viewers to each broadcast.” Naughty CBS! They shouldn’t go running their mouths like that.

CBS isn’t the only one seeing growth by engaging in social media. At CTVglobemedia, we saw a steady increase in referrers to our own sites as we engaged more actively in Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and Twitter. The more content we put up, the more traffic we would see come back to our own site, looking for more goods. Practically every web metrics company out there demonstrates that social networking sites are among the fastest growing online, but lesser known is that referrers from those sites are also on the rise. Read: if you put stuff on YouTube, people DO come back to YOUR site for more. Wow, science.

Couple growing social network interaction with the statistic that almost 70% of internet users watch TV while online and you’ve got a multiple platform experience, where you’re hitting your audience with your message from more than one place. Increased exposure is a great thing in the TV business.

Then you’ve got the simple fact that people love recommendations from other people. Social networks are ideal enablers of this type of sharing. Think about your own viewing habits. I’m writing to a very technically inclined audience here, so chances are you’re watching TV while using your laptop, just like me. Have you ever switched to a show because a friend sent you an IM about it? Vice versa? Yep, me too. Social sharing can result in instant changes in viewing habits, but the real payoff for broadcasters is in what marketers call “the long tail.”

Look up your favourite show in Facebook. Even if it’s a small show, or a canceled show, I bet it has its own fan group, or two, or three! Fans have taken marketing & brand ownership on themselves and are promoting our shows for us. Because they’re doing this through social networks, their friends and friends of friends all see this activity. Increased buzz and exposure (especially from your trusted social networking “friends”) means more brand engagement and often more people watching your show.

So, if social networks are so great for broadcasters, why are we always hearing about lawsuits and the predictions of YouTube’s demise under a flood of copyright claims? Part of the answer is revenue. Social networks can make a nice chunk of change when people watch clips of The Daily Show online and really, the people who put their time and labour into it aren’t getting any of that money. This is a fair grievance. Fortunately, it’s getting addressed. Some networks already offer revenue sharing models and more are coming on board.

The other part of the answer is control. Some broadcasters still want to hold onto it in a very traditional way, even though consumer habits have changed.

Television viewing is becoming increasingly fragmented. There’s more competition for our leisure time and some of that competition is from the internet. Add piracy concerns onto that and you’ve got some old school decision makers feeling pretty nervous about this whole internet thing. Never mind that contributing what amounts to marketing material (show clips) can expose new audiences to your show, these guys want to cling on to distribution of any kind. What they don’t realize is that people will not wait for them to change their business models– the music industry has proven that.

Listen up broadcasters: you cannot force your audience to view how you want when you want anymore. This is why NBC’s new degrading downloads model will fail.

Broadcasters can address distribution control in a different way: by actively engaging in it themselves and fostering fan involvement. Consider the case of when Ron Moore started writing on the Battlestar Galactica blog. The Sci Fi channel expected 100,000 visitors in the first six months and instead they got 6 million. It’s a great example of how a television producer embraced the social space and it resonated explosively with his fans and their friends. I’m glad that my industry seems to be more forward thinking about the online space than the music industry has been.

When I sit in meetings with TV producers, more and more of them are nodding their heads when we start to talk about social media. They’re starting to get how it can help their brands and therefore, their shows. It’s takes a fundamental shift to think about television as a multi-platform dialogue than the simple boob-tube to couch-potato monologue that it has been for so long. Good news is… the change is happening overall, even though we have some kids last in the race.

What’s next? I’d like to see television producers endorse all different types of mash-ups from their fans. Deanna Brown from Scripps Networks says that, “User-generated content is the perfect complement to the authoritative resources currently provided by our brands and will allow us to broaden and deepen our relationship with audiences. Nice! Don’t you love it when the future is so accommodating?

last100 is edited by Steve O'Hear. Aside from founding last100, Steve is co-founder and CEO of Beepl and a freelance journalist who has written for numerous publications, including TechCrunch, The Guardian, ZDNet, ReadWriteWeb and Macworld, and also wrote and directed the Silicon Valley documentary, In Search of the Valley. See his full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.

4 Responses to “Social media boosts TV ratings”

  1. Mark says:

    I’m not surprised, look at how many subscribers CBS’s Youtube channel has Some of those people are going to decide to watch on TV too.

  2. The Prophet says:

    good to see people are starting to listen.

  3. Paul M. says:

    I notice has been boasting for years about how much video they have on their web site and were giving way full episodes online before most of the U.S. networks started doing it. They are also all over Facebook and MySpace.

  4. ShareTV says:

    no doubt tv online has become huge – compare google traffic – Online TV Community (over 80,000 members)

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