Does Twitter Influence TV Scheduling?

Remember when you used to stand around the water cooler and talk about the latest Seinfeld episode? Well, some say Twitter is the new water cooler, but what impact, if any, does Twitter have on television programming?

The modern day word of mouth is Twitter, and for the entertainment industry there has been a steady increase in interest about how products are performing on social media and on Twitter and Facebook in particular. Producers are progressively concerned with their audiences’ social media activities. Are people tweeting about a particular program? If so, what are they tweeting? If not, why not and can it be fixed?

In an article in The Guardian Simon Nelson, former controller of BBC vision, notes the following: “The influence of the twittersphere can disproportionately impact on a show, so if there is a torrent of abuse, or the other way around, a torrent of love, that shines a spotlight that is definitely a factor in commissioning meetings.”

But, how significant is Twitter’s influence beyond creating buzz about a program? If a producer is trying to get a program funded or picked up, then Twitter can be very important, providing proof their product is marketable. However, in terms of television scheduling, social media is significantly less influential.

In the Guardian Article Tom Weiss, CEO of TV Genius – a company which tracks tweets and other social media updates while a program is being broadcast for their clients –  notes that: “If you are a scheduler social media is great because it’s keeping TV relevant [...] For online video clips social recommendation is key, but TV is different.” He concludes, “social media doesn’t drive viewing as much as it reflects who is viewing what.”

This opinion is, presumably, derived from research TV Genius released in the summer of 2010 which revealed that while an overwhelming number of people make suggestions on social networks about what their friends and followers should be watching (90%), the suggestions influence far fewer people’s actual viewing habits – just 10%..

So, social media isn’t influencing television programming quite yet, but it does highlight the relevance of a program and provides additional content for viewers. Through interactivity  such as The Apprentice UK’s Interactive Predictor – a graph which changes in real time to reflect who people think is most likely to win – viewers get the opportunity to increase their viewing experience and feel like they are influencing and communicating with producers.

And the future of the relationship between television and social media likely includes more and more of this kind of interactivity. This is true not only because social media influences the relevance and enjoyment of a program, but also because it is only a matter of time before social media can be monetized. Already, Facebook is trying to use Facebook Credits for certain games and voting applications.

If television producers ever find a way to add dollar value to hashtags, it will only be a matter of time before Twitter, and other social media outlets, begin to influence television scheduling.

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