Session Explores Integrating Social Media Strategies

What do social media and live television have in common?

The obvious answer is that they are both “instant.” Less obvious is how they can be used together to build audience size and create new
ways of experiencing television.

Social media have been a part of the television viewing experience for years. What is new is that the partnership is being studied more to find novel ways of building audience size and loyalty.

Today’s Super Session “Social Media and the Business of Live Television,” 2:30 p.m., aims to explore some of these new dimensions with an eye on putting new knowledge into practice.

Josh Dickey, entertainment editor for Mashable, will moderate the session, which is sponsored by SocialNewsDesk. The panel is composed of a strategic cross section of media executives who deal directly with live television. They include Bruce Gersh, executive vice president and head of Digital, Strategy and Branded Entertainment, ITV Studios America; David Wertheimer, president of Digital for Fox Broadcasting Co.; Perkins Miller, chief digital officer, National Football League; and Thomas Roberts, on-air host, “MSNBC Live with Thomas Roberts.”

Dickey has been immersed in social media for years and can provide a deeper understanding from the participants’ perspective.

“A good example of how social media and live television interact would be the Oscars, where the audience outside of the room, tweeting funny takes on what people are wearing, becomes
part of the show,” Dickey said.

The Super Bowl, which claims the record for largest audience size, offers an even grander example of a social event that holds nearly all of its power because it is watched live. And the NFL has become well aware of the role that social media plays in that event.

“By merging social media and live TV, you break down the broadcast wall,” Miller said. “It becomes a conversation. Fans have a platform
to respond to what they see, and TV producers can react to that conversation and change what is broadcast. Additionally, we now have real-time insight on what’s important to fans, which is
increasingly driving how we program news. We deliver better insights, faster to our fans.”

While it is hard to directly monetize social media activity, it can be used to analyze audience preferences at a level of detail that was not possible a decade ago. The gains ultimately come from building a larger and happier audience.

“ITV Studios America is integrating social media strategies more and more into our productions,” Gersh said. “A few years back, the
only thing that mattered was ratings. Today, networks and brands are increasing their focus on the level of social engagement around a TV program to also gauge success.”

The social world that surrounds a live television event is now recognized as a vital part of the audience’s experience. And the path ahead must include a strategy to make sense out the data in the chatter.

“You can get very granular with the detail in the metadata,” Dickey said. “That is not terribly new, but it is getting more refined. It’s becoming a mature field. There are new types of information
that can be gleaned from the metadata.”

The future will likely present new challenges for live television as Internet competitors such as Netflix or Hulu develop real-time streaming platforms, and emerging social media platforms enter the live streaming arena.

“Right now, we tend to think that live television interaction is a Twitter or Facebook phenomenon. But there are emerging platforms that are getting a lot of traction quickly, such as Snapchat, Meerkat and Instagram,” Dickey said. “I think that the enterprising television executive charged with leveraging social media for audience engagement and building would be really smart to start thinking about those emerging platforms, and how to get ahead of them.”