There’s No Way to Avoid Spoilers on Social Media Anymore

“River Song” Alex Kingston, courtesy of BBC UK, Doctor Who

“River Song” Alex Kingston, courtesy of BBC UK, Doctor Who

The rise of DVR and online streaming services means not all audiences are watching shows at the same time. With live-tweeting and discussions about TV on Facebook, is the notion of spoilers becoming antiquated?

Netflix released the second season of House of Cards on February 14th, with every episode available right away. The call for a spoiler-free viewing experience came from the highest office in the land, and the sentiment was echoed throughout social networks. For most, posting #spoilers has become standard etiquette when talking about their favorite shows. But that doesn’t stop anyone from talking about their favorite or most shocking show moments.

With the popularity of posting about a show while it airs, social media boosts interest and buzz around a particular TV show. The official Walking Dead Twitter account has 2.2 million followers, and the show generated 1.24 million tweets the week of February 3 – 9, the highest rate of TV interaction that week. 15.8 million live viewers watched the midseason return of the show had. Indeed, social plays an important role in the success of TV shows, but everyone wants to keep quiet about plot details.

How much time has to pass before talking about plot details is no longer considered a spoiler? In an email exchange with the Baltimore Sun, Brian Stelter, host of CNN’s Reliable Sources said of House of Cards:  “The episodes came online early Friday morning, so by Saturday, I think it’s fair to share/tweet/talk about what happened in the premiere episode without regard to latecomers.”

But with all 13 episodes going live at once, it’s impossible to pick a good time to do a full summary review of the season. Some viewers binged, others took the weekend, and others are likely planning to savor the show over the coming weeks. By all accounts, binge watching has become a hallmark of Netflix, and posting entire seasons could be considered encouragement.

So what of spoilers? While social sites drive viewers to live television, Netflix is blowing a hole in the weekly distribution model. As audiences become more decentralized, social media is connecting them around big events, like popular TV shows and sporting events. Still, when it comes to Netflix it’s either binge, avoid social media, or accept that the idea of ‘spoilers’ doesn’t apply.

Image credit: Tom Orgel

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