How Social Does TV Need To Get Anyway?

How Social Does TV Need To Get Anyway?

Television networks have finally woken up to the power of social networking. But is a constantly refreshing Twitter stream or dedicated social TV app the best way to make TV social?

For as long as there has been television, people have chatted about it. There’s the clichéd image of the office water cooler discussion which in recent years has morphed into folks discussing television events — whether news, sports, ‘reality’ tv or drama — via social networks such as Twitter or Facebook.

Almost every bit of free to air television that I watch is time shifted, which has a lot more to do with my time priorities than anything else. So for example, last night I watched the first episode of the new season of The Amazing Race. Why yes, I have terrible taste in TV, although it’s the only ‘reality’ TV show I bother with, and mostly there for the locations and to pick apart the editing. You have fun your way, and I’ll have it my way.

Anyway, timeshifting meant I could skip through the ads, but in this case I didn’t purely because I was having a side discussion while watching, and the ad breaks provided a good way to keep that going for a couple of minutes between heavily edited shots of Americans making fools of themselves.

What that meant was that I couldn’t ignore the fact that Yahoo 7 is hyping the heck out of its Fango social networking application. If I wasn’t on Fango, according to the ads, I was really missing out on something special. Except, of course, that I was time shifting the program, and any push towards a social experience based around a community watching a TV program at the same time needs that audience watching at the same time. I wasn’t, and all I was getting was annoyed with all the Fango ads!

I’m not the only time shifter out there; TV Tonight noted earlier in the week that a number of high profile programs added significant viewer numbers once time shifting was taken into account.

Fango’s one approach — and clearly one aimed at grabbing the Facebook/Twitter audience away from Facebook and Twitter respectively — but as the Sydney Morning Herald reports, the ABC is experimenting with technology that’ll add the kind of ‘live’ twitter feed that Q&A has experimented with to (potentially speaking) every single program. Think CNN news ticker, but instead of late breaking news on the same crisis they’ve been covering for the last seventy three hours, you’d get @Thommo_From_Renmark’s comments on who the murderer might be, or why that last try was total garbage, or something similar.

I’m totally guilty of using multiple devices while watching telly — last night I was holding a conversation, idly checking twitter and mucking around with a PS Vita while folks were dropping out of planes on the screen in front of me — and I do get how some events — sports would seem to be the logical example — can benefit from the group chat mentality; it’s exactly why I don’t go anywhere near Twitter when the State Of Origin football is on, for example.

But I don’t really want to watch stale tweets on timeshifted TV, and I’m not wholly convinced that overlaid tweets and status updates are the best way to do this anyway; the appeal of a social network on a distinct device is that I can pay it full attention, or none at all. Mashing the two together forces me to split my attention for the entire duration of the program, and that’s not what I’m after from my TV.

Image: Shutterstock/Nomad Soul