Social Media Television

Social TV: When will original formats triumph?

By Tom Bowers, director

April 20, 2015 | 4 min read

Social TV is now a term that most people understand in broadcasting, but it's not necessarily something that traditional producers have the skills in successfully devising in terms of original formats.

Over the past five years we have seen several truly interactive formats within Europe that have gone some way to prove that viewer interaction and good quality editorial formats can co-exist. They include The Million Pound Drop (Endemol), The Singer Takes It All (Endemol), The Bank Job (Endemol) and most recently Rising Star (Keshet International). However the latter, due to poor audience reception in both the US and Germany, was dropped by ITV even before it was due to be aired back in January of this year – a move that was widely publicised.

This then then led to a widespread fear factor among TV commissioners in respect to interactive formats and their consequential success. In my view this was short sighted as with higher production values and a tighter format, Rising Star could have been a huge success for the UK market. That said there are not enough success stories to date to outweigh any trepidation over poor viewing figures – but that could be changing.

Social media formats – as opposed to those requiring an app download or web interface – have been vastly untapped. Well, exciting news follows:

On 7 March, the Mirror reported:

"ITV and the BBC are on the hunt for 'Made for Twitter' programmes where viewers can interact via social media".

It's news like this that proves commissioners are excited about the instant buzz that TV shows receive and can see the merit in being able to harness that in a show format. The challenge is for producers is to create a format that works both for the social media audience and for a more 'traditional' TV audience. A skill traditional producers are not honed in.

The article goes on to state:

Kantar Media has compiled the UK¹s first Twitter TV figures and found tweets correlate with viewing figures...

Being able to understand how the technology works as well as how it will manifest itself in the programme DNA is crucial to ensure that the format is not only a hit on social but it stands up as great programme in its own right and drives viewing figures.

A lucrative combination for a great format needs both well thought out socially interactive components at its core as well as high entertainment values which people like my parents would want to watch even though they are not on any social network at all. This is the ultimate holy grail for any commissioner, creating a socially interactive format that appeals across the board to viewers and social engagers alike.

There hasn't to date been a breakthrough broadcast commission that has social media engagement at its core... but I feel it's just around the corner.

Interactive producers/digital producers, it's your time to shine; understanding the technical and creative crossover puts you in a huge position of power to be able to deliver in this space. If you understand social media, technology and broadcast TV together, then stepping up and conceptualising your idea and how it can work could lead to you delivering exactly what UK commissioners are after.

By the power of the hashtag, I can feel the ultimate crossover format is round the corner. Keep those ideas coming and let a powerhouse social TV format win through.

Tom Bowers is a director of Connect Four Productions

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