Social Media isn’t Stealing Television Viewers — It’s Supporting Them

By Kenna McHugh 

During the mid-to late 2000s, when on-demand and DVRs appeared over the horizon with the Internet and social media usage skyrocketing, some predicted that prime-time TV would slowly die into the sunset. But that is not the case. Television is as strong as ever.

As indicated by Nielsen, the average American in 2010 watched about 35 hours of TV on any given week. This number is up by one percent from 2009. Sure the improved quality of high definition broadcasts is contributing to more viewers, and there is something else generating interest as well.

Social networking and apps have reignited the experience around TV as a community of viewers. Not only live events like reality TV, award shows or sports are benefiting, but we also have canned, pre-recorded primetime TV shows.

Viewers who turn on their favorite television show are also on the Internet tweeting or sharing comments about the show, which is half the fun. Nielsen reports that some 60% of viewers use the Internet while watching their favorite shows.

The networks and syndicators have developed a very clever way to use social media to draw more viewers for the prime-time shows.

In July, “Kyra Sedgwick Chats Live tonight during TNT’s premiere of ‘The Closer’” was promoted throughout the Internet. With a simple hash tag Sedgwick was chatting live with her fans during the premiere episode.

At the beginning of the year, Fairly Legal fans had an opportunity to chat live on video via web chat with star Sarah Shahi. Sarah was there to answer questions via text and video from fans to get a more inside look at the show and her character.

More networks are doing similar social media events with live chats and so forth. Without a doubt, social networking sites have become a part of the viewing experience. According to Nielsen, tech-savvy 12-24 year-olds are now more connected and more proficient at using social media on mobile devices to watch television shows. Nielsen also reports that 18-34 year-olds are the most active demographic on social networks.

If you do your math, TV viewing is becoming a two-screen commodity. Usage of tablets and smartphones is growing. So, the future looks bright for both television and social media sites. It will be interesting to see how long the trend lasts.