The phenomenon or people watching TV while using a tablet or laptop to browse the Web, and simultaneously tweet or post updates to friends via a mobile device, has been growing strongly over the last two years. Porter Novelli’s recent research Men are from Foursquare Women are from Facebook found social media users across Europe are typically spending around two hours a day doing just that.
This convergence of social and traditional media has been one of the strong themes at SXSW so there was a packed turnout for a panel that brought together Verizon’s product management VP Eric Bruno, Foodspotting founder and ABC News digital strategist Soraya Darabi and Fred Harmer, digital GM of SNY,, and chaired by Weber Shandwick’s head of digital Chris Perry.
Darabi talked about how the two or three screen experience is encouraging gamification around TV with apps like GetGlue. “Why not have one screen showing what people are thinking about and another showing the content?”
The broadcasters agreed that content becomes more sticky when it has social interaction and more time is spent with it too. Harmer flagged how interaction from Facebook users has become something his team watches closely now.
The panel also celebrated how big TV events like the Emmy’s and Oscars become more entertaining with a social overlay, Darabi pointing out that even if the shows aren’t that exciting, comments around them make them more fun. Taking this a step further she questioned whether programme makers would use these comments to change the format and be more spontaneous in response to viewer feedback.
She also imagined a future where people’s past viewing habits could be used to give them privileges around future programming. As a Mad Men fan and buyer of the last four series, why not reward her with a sneak peek of series five?
Although social can be seen as challenging the TV companies, Bruno remained bullish that it was more of a benefit than a threat. For him, it’s about finding the right set of applications to make TV more enjoyable, and given how the average viewing time has been going up for five years, “the lake is getting bigger. The more content that is out there the better it is, the night terrors will fade away. TV is not going the same way as the music industry.”
He also pointed out that in our increasingly busy lives, one of the things TV has to do is get people to the content quickly for that 40 minutes when they just want to relax. Ultimately though, the content still needs to be engaging and relevant to grab people’s attention in the first place.
So – an industry in transition, and one that on this showing is trying to adapt to change, not maintain a pre-social status quo.