New Study Reveals The Three C’s of Social TV Viewing

Global media conglomerate Viacom Inc., the parent company of networks like MTV, BET, Nickelodeon, and Comedy Central, has just released a study that explores television viewers’ social viewing experiences. Viacom has described the shift in TV viewing as moving from a “lean-back to a lean-forward experience,” and their study sought to understand the components that made up that new experience in order to better market their content in the new media age. Similarly, new media artists and other brands should garner more than a clue on what type of content and services to push for or provide to encourage more “lean-forward” engagement with their audience or users.

“One of the main goals of this research was to understand how to inspire social TV activity among our audiences,” said Viacom executive vice president Colleen Rush in a statement. “At VMN, we’re focused on leveraging our fans’ attachment to their favorite shows by developing compelling social TV services and apps that deepen those connections and unlock the value of social chatter.”

First, what is social viewing? Most participants used words like “interactive,” “friends,” “Facebook,” and “Twitter.”

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Consisting of 24 ethnographies and a national online survey of 13-52 year olds who engaged in social TV viewing weekly, the study concluded that there are three big C’s that keep viewers engaged with social television viewing:


Part of the appeal of social viewing is the opportunity to enhance entertainment content consumption with discussion and social bonding with others. Indeed, communication is crucial for social TV users, with 56% using social TV apps/services, 53% using Facebook, 50% through texts, and 38% using Skype or Apple FaceTime. “When I’m watching Jersey Shore, I have Facebook chats with 10 friends and I’m texting a dozen people, and I can be on the phone to my best friend,” said one participant in the study.


Social TV users expect special content to satisfy and reward their enthusiasm and time spent on social viewing, with 88% wanting full episodes available online, 75% wanting sneak peaks of future episodes, and 71% wanting behind the scenes content and highlight clips. Further, aside from loving physical rewards for viewing, viewers also get an emotional payoff from virtual rewards like badges.


Social TV users read comments and discussion of shows to be introduced to different perspectives, discover new elements, and strengthen connections between viewer and show. Users valued comments from stars of the show most, followed by people they know. “I love reading Daniel Tosh’s tweets while watching Tosh.0. It gives the show a whole other dimension,” said one survey participant.

The three most common types of social TV viewing activities

Unsurprisingly, the study found that viewers are twice as likely to participate in social TV viewing when the content was live; otherwise, users felt “left out” of the social conversation if they missed an episode.

What can new media artists learn from the three C’s?

1. Have a strong presence in social media, and encourage your followers to commune over the topic of your brand and content.

2. Reward your followers with special content, preferably through your social media pages to further encourage communication and engagement.

3. Participate in the “social viewing” of your followers by providing insight or commentary to further fuel their fire.

4. Push content out on a regular schedule so that followers know when to look for you and don’t end up feeling “left out” of the conversation.


What’s your social TV viewing experience like?


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