Social TV: New TV or Another Layer on Traditional TV

Social TV: New TV or Another Layer on Traditional TV

26th March 2013

‘The Second Screen’. It is a term which you have been hearing about a lot more in the past year. The second screen many consider to be the ‘new TV’. It is even going to take the place of TV in the end some say. But is that really the case? Or will it be a bonus, will it just change the way we watch TV instead of replace it?

There might be a lot more going on than most people suspect. This was the topic of the keynote presentation at SES New York 2012 by Mike Proulx, Senior VP and Director Social Media at Hill Holliday and author of the book ‘Social TV‘. He claims there is more to Social TV than you’d think and that it will not replace TV, just enforce it.

Proulx starts the talk by talking about his (and one of mine by the way) favourite TV shows: How I met your Mother. In the show about a group of friends at one point the group finds out that one of the friends used to be a pop star in Canada in the 80s called Robin Sparkles, a fake name off course.

In real life however you could see that whenever the show was broadcasted, the number of searches on ‘Robin Sparkles’ were immediately increased. That is the connection between search and TV right there.


There are several examples to give to show the connection between second screen and TV and actual life. Twitter has gotten to be an important part in live TV and search and social. Take American Idol where they had Social polls. You could share if you agreed with the judges or not and it would show on the TV screen. The connection is definitely there.

What is social TV?

To get a good grip on what Social TV actually is and conversion between social media and television Proulx looked at three different elements: the landscape of television, Belief and Behaviour and brands.

Landscape Television

Proulx recently asked when talking to students ‘What’s TV?’ A student said it was very cut and dry: it’s the screen and you get content thrown at you, nothing more. However Television is much more. Watch shows on your iPad, watch live TV on iPad or phone. It has transcended devices.

house-of-cardsBut things are getting more blurry. It is not just the big networks anymore who are creating the content, Netflix for example is a big player now as well. A good example is House of Cards which is not being broadcasted on and actual TV but has everything about it from TV: it’s professional content.

Netflix released the entire series at once, like a book: you don’t want to wait a week for a next chapter. It is on a different device than ‘regular’ TV, but if you look at the show it actually still is TV at its core.

In fact, devices like Apple TV and Smart TVs are bringing us back to the living room because we want to watch on the big screen as well as on the ‘second screens’.

The idea is that the second screen is important while watching TV, which is true: 40% of smart phone or tablet owners are using their device while watching television.

The Social TV ecosystem because of that has exploded. And there are some good examples of tools making use of this. One of them is “zeebox” who is getting a lot attention and has a partnership with HBO. It delivers real time content and information based on what is streamed. at that specific moment of time. It calls itself the “TV Sidekick”. They are tying human behaviour to gadgets.

It’s not a guarantee

The problem is that technology doesn’t make the content of a TV show good. The TV show My Generation for example had a great app, but the content of the show wasn’t, so it failed.

Important when it comes to TV, is that we have to get back to what TV is all about: content and storytelling.

Some examples

A few good examples of this are:

TopChef: they have extra content on the second screen where the ones who were dropped from the show were competing to get back on the show. You could follow that separately.

The Oscars: they allowed streaming of multiple camera’s so you could for example see what was going on in the red carpet. It’s a so called ‘back stage pass online‘.

Dallas: to get back into the people’s eyes after 20 years Dallas used Facebook timeline to get back in the vision, they filled it with 20 years of content to find out what happened in between.


Defiance: Defiance is not just a television show, but also a game which makes you can actually control what is going on in the show.

Belief and Behaviour

There are several thoughts about TV and how people behave. Those are not always true. Let’s look at some of them:

TV is dying

Everyone things that TV is dying. But in fact according to Nielsen we watch more TV than ever: 35 hours a week. It continues to increase. The Oscars had 40 million people tune in.

No more live TV?

Second belief most people don’t watch TV live. However 87% of broadcast content is watched live. 41% of recorded TV is never watched.

People use the second screen for TV

77% of television watching includes some other device, BUT 78% of that activity is unrelated to what they are watching. So yes, people use the second screen, but not always for the things you’d expect them to use it for.

Social Media helps ratings

Nielsen says there is a ‘correlation’ between Twitter activity and TV ratings. That is why shows are putting up more and more hashtags. However Nielsen also says there is no causation.

Research however shows that the causation and correlation in fact is very low, people don’t directly GO to a show based on a tweet, they talked about a show.

The other way around big moments on TV don’t always spike Twitter. Sometimes people are so drawn in they stopped tweeting. In this case a drop in tweets is a good thing.

If you compare the top rated TV shows with the top Social TV rated you see differences. Shows like Idols are popular in both, but others differ.

TV is traditional media

TV is ‘old’ media, that’s what the student also said, but if you really look at things you can see that TV is actually NEW Media. We are watching TV but through different devices, on different places.


So how do brands respond to the ‘new way of watching TV’? There are some nice examples of brands who play in to how people watch TV. Here are a few examples:

March Maddness: The NCAA is working with Twitter to show short clips of replays for people who missed it but are online or who want to see something again what the broadcaster isn’t showing.

Fashion Star NBC: NBC integrated the brands in the storyline of the content itself. The judges of the clothing items are actually buyers from the brands.

Lincoln: going up to the super bowl Lincoln (cars) used Jimmy Fallon and the viewers to write the script of the next commercial. He would show behind the scenes: #steerthescript.

Verizon: Verizon used real people to ask questions to about their service. They answered the questions on Twitter. It became a comedy as well. There were fun tweets.

Psych 100: people can vote for the ending of the 100th episode. You can vote for ‘who is the killer’.

The Oreo cookie tweet: responding to the black out during the Super Bowl very rapidly after it happened got them a lot of attention and over 16000 re-tweets.


There were actually several brands that responded to the black out but they didn’t get as much attention. This takes us to another interesting point: overkill. You don’t want Twitter to be flooding with brands who overreact: enrich vs hijack. Brands have to be careful.


So are we really looking at the end of TV? Or just the end of TV as we know it? We have to approach TV with a fresh eye. The question asked 74 years ago when the first TV was sold is still relevant: “TV, what will people make out of it?”

Internet and Social Media in specific so far do not push out TV, instead they actually enforce each other. It is just how you look at it.


Written By
Bas van den Beld is an award winning Digital Marketing consultant, trainer and speaker. He is the founder of State of Digital and helps companies develop solid marketing strategies.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.