TV viewing as an interactive, social experience

Watching TV is often described as a passive experience, yet there is a strong social element to it and the increase in smart phones and tablets in the home offers new opportunities for TV viewing.

Discussing what you watched the night before with friends and colleagues is a common behaviour and this has become enhanced with real time, online discussions of TV shows via Twitter and Facebook.  Sharing what you’re viewing and connecting with friends (and strangers) while watching a programme makes it an active social experience. Programmes that elicit strong opinions such as Question Time and The Apprentice both have strong Twitter audiences and regularly trend.

Check-in apps like GetGlue are specifically designed to allow people to share what they are watching. This could be an untapped area for development, particularly if the increase in people watching TV online means that more people are watching TV alone.  And watching pre-recorded TV or repeats removes this social element if watched out of sync with everyone else. Checking in is a way of finding new programmes to watch simply by having visibility of what your friends are watching.  Recommendations can automatically be given based on your viewing history. And being prompted to watch something by seeing that a friend is watching can be the start of a conversation.

Mobiles and tablets are ideal for complementary viewing experiences. 86% of people with mobile internet devices are using them as they watch television. The increase in numbers of these devices in the home could embed this as a new era for TV – where TV shows are designed to be interactive and experienced across multiple devices.

Game shows and live events are ideal for this and an early attempt was made during this year’s Eurovision Song Contest with the iPad app MyTVBuddy that allowed in-app chat with other viewers and integration with Twitter and Facebook. Endemol and Channel 4 have already entered this space with shows such as The Million Pound Drop, where people can play along in real time at home, and Seven Days, where viewers could influence what happened on the show through the website.

It will be interesting to see if this develops into a more substantial trend as the tablet market grows.

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