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Exploring the Social TV Viewing Phenomenon

An eMarketer analysis of surveys indicates that 15% to 17% of TV viewers are engaged in real-time socializing about TV shows

The idea of TV as the “first screen” and other devices as the “second” or “third” screens is dead. Today, the first screen is whichever one a consumer is looking at, according to “Social TV: Marketing to Viewers in Real Time,” a new report from eMarketer.

While time spent on digital devices increases, and device multitasking rises alongside, knowing the exact usage of social TV is tricky. eMarketer analyzed multiple surveys and found that a majority of social media users, tablet owners and smartphone users have used social networks while watching television.

And a significant portion of these users were specifically using social media to talk about the content they were viewing on television. An eMarketer analysis of other surveys conducted in 2013 indicated that 15% to 17% of TV viewers engaged in real-time socializing about the television shows they were watching.

eMarketer expects that figure to rise if social media companies are successful in their attempts to cozy up more closely with television. Twitter is making TV partnerships a key focus, both for users and marketers, and the recently released Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings and TV-related ad products are aimed at supporting and extending marketers’ television advertising.

Facebook is further behind, but the company is expanding the use of hashtags and other features to show users how much real-time conversation is taking place on the service. It is also rolling out two APIs that will allow media outlets and ad technology companies to analyze and report on real-time activity. Facebook believes it can offer TV advertisers a one-two punch of enormous reach and deep targeting.

For the report, eMarketer also interviewed several industry executives, including those from Sprint, Volkswagen, Discovery, Adidas and others.

“We can do our normal commercials that we’ve done for so long, but we realize consumers are talking about what they’re doing while watching TV,” said Eric Gruen, digital brand manager for North America fabric care at Procter & Gamble. “In order for us to be a part of that conversation, it’s about going beyond our traditional TV commercials. It’s up to the brands to be authentic. We need to make sure we take part in a way that adds value to the consumers and what they’re doing.”

Rick Wion of McDonalds said: “[Consumers are] watching the commercials, and they’re interacting with their device at the same time. So, we think there are tons of opportunities.”


The full report, “Social TV: Marketing to Viewers in Real Time,” also answers these key questions:

  • How do people use social media while viewing TV?
  • How are Twitter and Facebook approaching the TV/real-time connection differently?
  • How are marketers engaging viewers in real time as they watch TV?
  • What might happen as TV viewing becomes more fragmented?

This report is available to eMarketer corporate subscription clients only. eMarketer clients, log in and view the report now.


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