Consumer behaviors have shifted drastically over the past few years as social media plays an increasingly important role in the way people communicate. During its broadcast of the Academy Awards this coming Sunday, ABC plans to take advantage of the chatter that will inevitably come on the Internet during the show.
In an effort to benefit from the increased attention on the network, Disney-owned ABC built a companion website that will show behind-the-scenes video streams, allowing viewers to check out what Oscar winners do once they walk backstage. ABC is the first broadcast network to tie in a big event like the Oscars with a social media interplay, and analysts affirm other networks could soon follow suit – depending on the outcome.
Broadcast networks like CBS, Fox and NBC are no longer the dominant force in pop culture like they once were; as a result, executives are trying out new media initiatives that would have seemed impossibly far fetched only a few years ago. With its Oscar website, ABC hopes to capitalize on the flurry of real time activity that will inevitably result.
Ian Schafer, the chief executive officer at the digital agency Deep Focus, told The New York Times that Facebook and Twitter messages about shows often drive other viewers to watch them. Schafer affirms that Twitter and Facebook could be "the most efficient way to drive tune-in" as traditional advertising has less of an impact.
The Grammys recently benefited from social media activity; this year's show, broadcast February 13, was the highest rated in over 10 years. Analysts assert that users of social media sites often recommend programs to watch to their friends and followers, resulting in increased awareness.
Social Media sites essentially give users an experience of watching a show with a group of people – even if you're tweeting about it with your brother who lives thousands of miles away. Jeff Probst, the host of the CBS television show "Survivor," tweeted during the show's most recent season premiere and said he planned to continue in the future. "In a sense, you are in the living room, watching together," he said.
Television executives say that live chats deepen a viewer's interest in a show. Cable channel BET surprised its competition last month when "The Game," a sitcom about football players, was watched by an audience of 7 million people. BET's chief executive, Debra Lee, said social media sites can illustrate whether a show has managed to become a part of the zeitgeist. "We can now tell when something's a hit almost immediately – by seeing how many of the trending topics on Twitter belong to us," she affirmed.
ABC's executive vice president for digital media, Albert Cheng, mirroed Lee's sentiment, asserting "we know people are multitasking while they're watching TV." The question "is how do we tap into that and create a whole difference consumer experience?"
"We don't have all the answers, but we are definitely trying different things and seeing how people are reacting," he said.