Consumer Insights: TV Gets Social

stuart-schneiderman by Stuart Schneiderman, Consumer Insights & Measurement, Viacom Media Networks

When Networks Network: TV Gets Social,” a joint quest between Viacom and Viacom International Media Networks, investigates the interplay between TV and social media. Beyond seeking visibility into what drives Viacom’s audiences to social media, the multi-country study sought to understand how social media impacts viewing behaviors. After discovering that viewers engage in an average of 10 TV-related activities on social media platforms on a weekly basis, the research went deeper to uncover three key types of motivations leading to TV-related social media activities: Functional, Communal and Playful. It also unearthed the long-questioned value of social media markers including Facebook “likes” and Twitter “follows” when it comes to TV.

Key Findings

Out of 24 social media activities tracked, three distinct types of motivations for TV-related social media use emerged: Functional (searching for show schedules, news, exclusives); Communal (personal branding, connecting with others); and Playful (gaming, entering contests).

 Function: Information First

Function trumps all over motivating factors — including socializing — when it comes to TV-related social media use. Viewers use social media sites to:

  • stay informed about air dates and times (44%);
  • keep up with the latest show news (45%); and
  • access exclusive show info (37%), video (36%) and plot clues (36%).

Functional motives are stronger for teens and young adults.

  • Viewers 13-17 are most likely to use social media to search for show schedules and exclusive videos.
  • Viewers 18-24 are most likely to search for the latest show news and to access spoilers.

 Communal: The Value of a Facebook ‘Like’ or a Twitter ‘Follower’

Communal factors are the second most common reason for engaging in TV-related social media use – often satisfied by “liking” a show on Facebook or following it on Twitter.

  • 34% use social media to brand themselves and share taste.
  • 28% use social media to either connect with the show or to connect with other fans.

After “liking” or “following” a show, viewers are a full 75% more likely to watch that show. They also watch more in an average of three different ways (live, stream, reruns), and engage more with TV shows and channels on digital platforms:

  • 41% access its social media more, 39% visit the show/channel site more often and 27% are more likely download related apps.

 Playful: Social TV Games Matter

  • Playful experiences drive TV-related social media activities, including playing for rewards (24% to get freebies or enter contests) or playing games (25% games; 24% quizzes/polls).

A) Over 30% play TV show-related social media games on a weekly basis.

B) Of the social gamers who watch a TV show and play the related game, about 75% play off-season.

  • TV-related gaming is a persistent touch-point and a way to connect year-round with viewers.
  • Social media games help drive viewership, with around 30% of respondents having gamed before ever watching a show.
  • About half reported watching a show more due to the show’s social media game.
  • Game shows, comedy and reality shows come in as the top genres for gaming.

Social media-fueled show discovery uniquely and positively impacts live tune-in. Viewers are significantly more likely to watch a show premiere on live TV when the show is discovered via social media.

  • In terms of sources of show discovery, social media ranked third (39%), behind promos (54%) and word of mouth (50%). (The exception is Brazil, where social media ranked even higher, second only to TV promos.)
  • 70% are likely to watch the live debut of a show discovered via social media, versus 48% if discovered elsewhere.
  • 41% are likely to watch a show live past its first season if discovered via social media, versus 28% if discovered elsewhere.
  • Drivers of live tune-in from social media include Facebook friend’s comment, a show’s post, or a friend “liking” the show.

The Methodology:

International online surveys were conducted in the U.S., U.K., Germany, Brazil and Russia with more than 5,000 Viacom viewers ages 13-49 who use two or more social media platforms on at least a weekly basis. The study is based on social media diaries in the U.S., as well as online communities in the U.S., U.K. and Germany.


Through these findings, the following “Deadly Sins of Social Media” emerged – guidelines applicable not just to media companies, but translatable to any brand or advertiser hoping to connect with consumers.

  • Do not provide essential show information;
  • Fail to feature fresh, engaging content;
  • Post to the point of spamming; and
  • Try too often to get consumers to buy products.


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