MediaPost Publications Social Media’s Real Benefit For TV: Helping Weak Shows 04/05/2012

Now we know the real secret about social media and TV. It isn’t necessarily about “engaging” current viewers of popular TV shows. It’s about keeping low-rated shows on the air.

A new survey says nearly 80% of those who use social media post comments to “keep shows on the air.” The survey didn’t go into details of what specific activity there has been for such fan and critical favorites as  “Fox’s “Fringe” or NBC’s “Chuck” and “Community.”

TV Guide says this activity is up from 66% a year ago.

Before social media, show fans used a number of ways — like letter writing — to keep programming on the air. Nearly all efforts failed. One of the biggest success stories in recent years was with  “Jericho,” with CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler saying the network took a chance specifically because of the activity by its hard-core fans.

According to Tassler, this came with a caveat. CBS said, in so many words, that while it was giving the show another chance, hard-core fans needed to do some extra work — word-of-mouth stuff, digitally or whatever, to gain more viewers so that the “Jericho” could be a viable business.

That effort didn’t work. But it was an honorable effort in any case.

The survey speaks volumes about social media. It’s not about making modest or strong TV shows better, but taking some loss-leaders to perhaps a better level. In essence, that is what a good marketer can do.

So what does this mean? Are those TV marketers who are participating in paid media on social media missing out? Social media metrics — like how much an ad on Facebook really brings to traditional TV viewing  –can be sketchy,.

When it comes to entertainment research, one just needs to follow the real concerns of viewers. That may be to vent about a possible story line, or a performer gone wrong on AMC’s “The Killing” or MTV’s “Jersey Shore.” But a bigger reason is something more personal: giving a smaller bit of entertainment a longer life.

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