How TV is becoming more social

Andrew Stephen
University of Oxford

Audiences increasingly use social media while watching television. This has a two-way impact: TV viewing prompts social mentions, and social mentions affect the popularity and shaping of television. This 'social TV' phenomenon is highly beneficial to marketers and advertisers, therefore understanding the interplay between TV and social media is essential.

During one weekend in the winter of 2002 the national phone network in the UK was under threat of collapse and the National Grid anticipated power cuts amid fears of huge surges in electricity demand. A record total of 8.7 million votes had been cast in the final by fans who had been given an opportunity to decide the best new young pop singer from a handful of hopefuls looking for a break into the music industry. The programme, of course, was Pop Idol, one of the UK's top-earning TV exports that became an international franchise spawning multiple series worldwide including American Idol, and later the inspiration for The X Factor when Simon Cowell left his original creation. The initial format made extensive use of public voting via telephone and internet to decide the fate of the contestants, and this later expanded to include mobile texting and interaction via the 'red button' on digital TV sets.