Where’s the money in Social Television?

June 10, 2008Comments Off

Wadds touched on this point a few months ago, social television is growing quite quickly. It's not entirely new. Radio stations have had call-in lines during games for decades. Sports shows have allowed some interaction. But nothing before has had the ease of interaction offered by social media tools.

It's not just social media that's prompted the rise of social television. It's the big switch from desktops to laptops, it's increasing broadband penetration and it's the growth of broadband television (watching telly over the internet).

We're really at the beginning of something here. A big fundamental change in what the entertainment drawn from television is. The examples are all around us. The Guardian has been live-blogging the Apprentice for ages now. It's an extremely popular column and gets as many at times it gets as many as five comments a minute. If anything, it's a victim of it's own success and would work better as a Twitter stream. Indeed, Twitter is buzzing during an apprentice night. is typically buzzing during an apprentice night (and Steve Jobs keynotes).

What's shocking is that it's the Guardian that benefits from that column. Nobody makes money when people talk about The Apprentice over Twitter. It's not the production company behind The Apprentice, nor ITV that are benefiting from their own show.

It's an example of two things. The first is the producers of The Apprentice and ITV mistaking exactly what they're offering, and the second is a misunderstanding of the benefits of being the beacon of conversation. If The Apprentice were clever they would be offering these facilities on their site. They would have former contestants in chat rooms live-blogging or twittering future shows. They would have quick straw-polls of who we all thought they will get fired. Maybe even organising pub-meetings or viewings of the finals?

Nor is it just The Apprentice, it's Big Brother (though this does a slightly better job), it's x-factor, it's even films. Even now I'm watching Greece play Sweden in the next window via ITV. So why is ITV not offering me the option to complain about Greece's performance? Or submit questions to experts? Or connect to like-minded members and form our own community?

Yes, if they were clever they would form an online community around their show and have the conversations taking place around the show. Then you can get more people, more involved with the show, more likely to watch the advertisements in the future and buy the DVD series, more likely to buy the books. Less likely to be watching other channels. There is money to be made here.

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