Tuesday 31 January 2012

Twitter isn't saving TV

This morning at the Westminster Media Forum, Sir Peter Bazalgette stated that social media, far from competing with TV, has assisted TV.

Yet Tess Alps, Chief Executive of Thinkbox, the marketing body for commercial TV in the UK, provides a different viewpoint. She says that there is a lack of perspective about social media and TV; data from online chat is used unscientifically and leads to a false analysis of TV audiences.

If 40% of primetime tweets are about TV (as Alps says), is Twitter saving TV? 

Social media experts will point to an increase in TV viewing over the last couple of years, from around 3.75 hours per person per day to just over 4 hours. That increase coincides with the growth of social media, especially Twitter. Hence, Twitter has grown TV audiences.

I see flaky analysis like this every day. There is no evidence of a causal relationship.

The TV industry is also somewhat deluded. In her editorial in Broadcast last week, Lisa Campbell says "We've been treated to quality drama, breakout comedy and hit entertainment. It's no wonder TV viewing remains stubbornly robust". Again, there is a lack of causal evidence.

There are two things we know for sure:
  1. Average TV viewing time has remained close to 4 hours for years.
  2. People are spending less money, going out less often.
My hypothesis is that TV viewing has increased almost entirely due to the current economic climate; and that TV viewing has in large part fuelled the growth of Twitter, not the other way around.

As I pointed out in my previous piece about Zeebox - hardly an earth-shattering revelation - TV has always been social. People have always talked about it, even while watching it. Twitter is just another medium for people to share their thoughts and emotions about what they're watching on the screen, in real time with far more people.

Game shows and reality TV are fighting for audiences with online interaction: voting on Big Brother; play along with Million Pound Drop Live etc. Social media isn't saving the TV: social media is the latest theatre of war for broadcasters chasing armchair-bound consumers.