In 2012, about one-third of smartphone owners admit to using their phones or tablets to send out a message when watching television. Today, in 2016, in 4 years or one presidential term, that number has jumped to eighty-four percent. Television is no longer a solo activity. It has become social. Viewers are engaging with other fans via social media. They call it “the second screen” and television networks are embracing it. Why? Because social media is a great advertising tool. The fans of a television program become brand evangelist pushing others to watch the television show live, so that they can engage in the conversation. With more live viewers, the higher rates the network the show is broadcast on is able to charge its advertisers. They can do this all for the price of putting a few words on the television screen.
The popularity of total viewers verses popularity of viewers engaging on social media differs quite drastically. For example, the two most popular, weekly show on television are NCIS and The Big Bang Theory and both air on the broadcast network CBS. However, neither of these shows even makes the top 10 talked about shows on social media. The most tweeted about show ever, Pretty Little Liars, airs on the cable channel Freeform (formerly ABC Family) wouldn’t even make the top 25 shows based on its viewership ratings. The highly serialized nature and younger and probably more social media savvy demographic of viewers is the reason it does far better online. That’s not to say that social media has no correlation to television ratings. Both Empire on FOX and The Walking Dead on AMC do incredibly well in both viewership and social media.
People love to use their smartphones, tablets and check social media while watching television. I think the reason behind the rapid grown of the second screen come from television shows acknowledging that viewers are going to be using their smart phones, but instead of ignoring it or fighting against it, they embraced it. They found a way to engage in the activity that users were already doing.
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