Culture is future » Innovation and digital

04.22.2013

Contribution : « Social Networks, The Future of Television » by Virginie Spies

Is television dead? We sometimes hear that this is a fact, with the growing scope of the media and the rise of social networks. But television has never been as alive as it is today, and the social web is reinforcing its supremacy.  

It’s almost become inevitable: nowadays every television show has its own Twitter account, a Facebook page and a dedicated hashtag. This has become somewhat of a habit, whereas no longer than a year ago, barely few TV shows had such a set-up on social networks.

Communities

In 2012, French people watched an average of 3 hours and 50 minutes of television every day, which is slightly less than the European average (3h55min), but way over the global average - 3 hours and 17 minutes1. Between 2011 and 2012, the average French watched television for 3 extra minutes2 whilst on a global scale, the trend saw an increase of just a minute.

These numbers demonstrate that the average French have a bond with television – as a traditional media, a TV still has bright future to look forward to. However, TV stations must be willing to make that turn towards digital, especially with the large communities generated by the web 2.0.

Being present on social networks has become a must for television stations, who can build communities in which the public will feel at home. The viewer will follow a show on TV and comment about it with his community on Twitter. This will not only make his followers want to watch the show with him, but also to comment it, therefore generating messages and video sharing, whilst attracting more audience.   

Television viewers have been using Twitter to comment about television shows since before the stations started to appear on social networks. In 2009, only a small number of people shared comments about “La Nouvelle Star” (French equivalent of The X-Factor) while today, it has become difficult to follow such a live tweet, due to the growing number of viewers and internet users. Stations have simply followed a trend which proved to be inescapable. By creating Twitter accounts and hashtags, stations are trying to regain some control over what has become a widely accepted practice.       

The future lies in the double screen

What these stations have now to understand is that comments about shows on Twitter are not all the same: you can’t comment on a football match in the same way as you do on a TV show or a political debate. Economic stakes and the way the brand is perceived are different things, and TV stations will have to think quickly about a way to deal with this flow of comments regarding their programs. Because at the end of the day, inviting viewers to leave comments on Twitter isn’t enough to give the impression that television has become interactive. It has never been that way, and everything remains to be done.

Shows such as “Le Vinvinteur” on France 5, or “Médias le mag”, are conceived based on the fact that they will be commented and shared on social networks, but this is just the beginning. Stations have everything to gain from it; it’s a marketing issue where the stakes change with each show broadcasted. Culture is also at stake: by developing their relationship with the viewers and creating ties, stations reinforce their identity. They will thus have to reinvent their relationship with their audience.

 

We often hear that in the current era of web and social networks, television has no future. It’s actually the contrary that is happening, because in order to comment shows with one’s community, you have to watch them at the same time, “together”. Rather than “killing” television, the web most certainly seems like the next step forward.

 

About Virginie Spies

Virginie Spies is a senior lecturer at the University of Avignon. Semiologist and media analyst, she is the author of “Télévision, presse people : les marchands de Bonheur” (INA – De Boeck). Her current research focuses on the links between television and social networks.

 

Her blog : http://semiologie-television.com/

On Twitter : @semioblog