Many of us–at least those that still have cable subscriptions–have become accustomed to recording our favorite television shows then watching them at our convenience and fast forwarding through all those expensive commercials that brands and agencies produce. Though, 41% of Americans never end up watching their recorded content.

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But the community-building nature of social television is bringing back the idea of appointment-based tv-watching.

What is social television? It is the act of watching a program at its regularly-scheduled time–commercials and all–with an internet-connected device in hand that allows the viewer to communicate with other viewers live during the program. Be that through Facebook, Twitter, Zeebox or GetGlue, programs like Pretty Little Liars, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones and live events like the Oscars, sporting events and reality TV (i.e., American Idol and The Voice) are encouraging this activity with dedicated hashtags and/or bonus content through mobile apps.

Recently a report was released that revealed the correlation between Twitter and television ratings:

“Nielsen — along with its new acquisition Social Guide — have released new data that shows a positive correlation between Twitter volume and TV ratings. In fact, Twitter is one of a small handful of variables tied to moving the ratings needle. For premiere episodes, an 8.5% increase in Twitter volume is associated with a 1% increase in ratings for 18-34 year olds, according to Nielsen’s study. A 14% increase correlates with a 1% ratings increase for 35-49 year olds. For midseason episodes, the correlation is stronger: a Twitter volume increase of 4.2% and 8.4% associates with a 1% rise in ratings for those two age groups, respectively. Nielsen said it’s still working on measuring the correlation with season finales, which it expects to be strong.”

What does this mean for marketers?

  • First, it is great news for television commercial reach: when viewers are so engaged with a show that they watch it live and want no spoilers from the social communities’ conversations, they are no longer skipping our commercials.
  • Second, it presents an opportunity for multiple screen engagements with the viewers: creating opportunities for conversations around the shows they are watching, providing/sponsoring the bonus content they are seeking on their internet-connected device, including call-to-actions that drive them online for information/sign-up/behind-the-scenes content/special interviews with the show stars. Brands can think creatively about how to integrate themselves into these popular shows and leverage the communities around these shows to help build their own brand communities and ultimately loyalty.
  • Third, it means that viewers are taking immediate actions to show their interest or disinterest in the brand commercials and/or content: they are looking up facts, commenting with their opinions and if there is a product involved, they are making a purchase about one-third of times they go online to learn more and its immediate.

The bottom line: marketers should be aware of the social television trend and get creative about taking advantage of viewers who are so engaged in their programs that they are watching at designated time with their communities and engaging online simultaneously.