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Social TV Use Appears to Be Growing

More CW than CBS

Family Guy's baby genius Stewie Griffin.

Did you know you’re more likely to immediately tell all your Facebook friends about the terrible thing Kim Kardashian just said than you are to tweet during the show about [redacted] dying a horrible death on Game of Thrones? Using two Nielsen research groups, the Keller Fay Group, and Bluefin Labs to study some 6,000 TV viewers, the Council for Research Excellence identified several social trends around television, and some are surprising. For instance, reality gets tweeted about as the show is running, while scripted content gets social love after the credits roll.

The study, set for release Monday at the ARF, also suggests that despite all the chatter about how enthusiastic people are about social media, only about one in 10 actually use it with TV every day. But the number jumped to 37 percent when it came to folks who engaged with social TV more than once a week—so social TV use appears to be growing.

“There was so much excitement—and rightly so—about people trying to interact with television, we wanted to understand who was using it and why,” said Beth Rockwood, svp, market resources for Discovery Communications and chair of the CRE’s social media committee. The study shows that ratings and social penetration don’t necessarily go hand in hand—the young “super-connectors” who love tuning in and tweeting simultaneously are few in number—about 12 percent. “We know that the CW is going to get a lot more social activity than CBS,” Rockwood said. Still, CBS is going to sell a lot more GRPs.

The study also found that some demographics were more digitally inclined than others—Hispanics were 50 percent more likely to interact with social media about television than the average across the survey. The favorite kind of programming for Hispanic viewers? Sports. By contrast, African Americans were less likely to be interested in social TV—a finding that surprised some CRE members since that group is more likely than the general population to be on Twitter.

It also turns out that you’d rather talk to your friends than your spouse. Fifty-four percent of social media usage during TV viewing occurs while you’re watching with someone else.

Some results were intuitive. Broken down by number of programs, sci-fi programming led the charge, followed by sports, with reality just ahead of news for third place. In terms of pure volume, however, reality competition shows dominated. Interestingly, comedies generated more buzz during finales—The Simpsons and Family Guy both did well at season’s end—while dramas like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead got more attention around their premieres.

As always, the burning question is how best to monetize this. Alexandra Shapiro, svp of brand marketing and digital for USA, says that she thinks “social TV is the antidote to timeshifting.” Shapiro admits social TV isn’t for everyone—plenty of folks just watch TV to relax­—‘‘but others are multitasking anyway.”

The study’s conclusions?

Social is big, but “promotion is still the strongest reason to watch a new program.”

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