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TV apps: keeping viewers glued to screens

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In times of users being pulled away to smaller screens, TV providers are trying to keep their medium fresh and exciting. Through social tv, users can experience something they can’t if they were watching the programme online – participation. Joining the conversation has become as important as watching the programme itself.

What is social TV?
Social TV is the integration of social media and television to form a community around certain television shows.
I’ve already mentioned hashtagging during TV shows to follow viewers’ Tweets while watching a programme. But why is this social-ness of tv watching so infectious?
Remember when we actually sat around a TV with friends and family to watch shows, and would laugh, cry, share our thoughts together? With splitting screens and viewers no longer just watching on one screen anymore, watching has become a much more individualised act. That, and, even if we are watching on a TV in the lounge, we’re most likely to still be on our smart phones.
According to Ericsson’s Consumer Insights Summaryfor August 2012, 62% of people globally use social media while watching TV, and this number is growing.
It’s also a particularly good strategy of ensuring that viewers don’t PVR shows but are encouraged to watch the same time as everybody else, which means more advertising revenue.
Programme apps the next big thing?
Hashtagging during a show is one thing, but TV show applications are the next step in building a show’s community. Tools like Bravo’s Play Live app allow viewers to participate and feel a sense of ownership over the show.
Play Live is a webpage with real-time content, questions and polls associated with whatever show is live on Bravo at a specific time. People vote or interact, the tally is calculated and displayed on the TV screen in real-time during the show.
They have now extended even the app so it can be used for re-recorded TV shows broadcast, which is more difficult, but manageable with proper strategy and organisation. Pre-recorded shows like It’s a Brad Brad World ask users questions while they watch, and votes are displayed on screen.
In live interviews such as Watch What Happens Live, viewers can catch celebrities off guard– ask questions and completely unsettle them, which is a first, and makes it more interesting.
Another creative strategy Bravo came up with is that they’re extending this to advertisers, too. Users can also interact with a commercial they partner with. It increases engagement with commercials and keeps people from blocking them out.
South Africa lagging behind
South Africa seems to be lagging behind in terms of building app software, which is a shame, it has huge potential. The only show that has built some interaction is Million Rand Money Drop, which allows users to play the same game from their online device at the same time as the show, or just for fun. Since the show is pre-recorded, however, users’ answers are not displayed on screen or compared to the actual contestants.
South African programmers should get on board and think about building apps for shows like Idols or Come Dine with me SA. Whether it’s to vote, pick songs for contestants, or, in the latter, talk about food in the programme.
Complementing shows with social media and apps creates a participatory process that can build a loyal community. There is a potential, and the space needs to be filled. 
*Following this post, Idols SA tweeted me the following: "@manuelacassuto unfortunately the cost of building Apps in SA is huge. We agree with you though."
Image: via techcrunch
Is social TV making us anti-social?
I discuss whether being on extra devices makes us even more anti-social around those with whom we are watching TV, and talk to Sandra Parmee, a social media blogger about this.