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March 18, 2012 / The_Mike_Johnson

How HBO and The Discovery Channel Mix Social Media and Interactive TV

Left to right, Sabrina Caluroi of HBO, Scott Rosenberg of Umami, and Gayle Weiswasser of Discovery.

Social media has taken television into an interactive experience. Now you not only tune in to watch your favorite show but can connect through Facebook and Twitter to not only express your reactions to an episode but engage with the actors as well. The Center for Communication recently explored the developing area of interactive television that included:

Sabrina Caluori felt that television has always been a social medium where office workers gathered the day after watching their shows to discuss and share their favorite moments. But today with social media no one has to wait since they can now engage in real time conversation through Facebook and Twitter.  The social media strategy of HBO is not platform specific as some interactions work best on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or a combination of all three. What is the secret to social buzz? Allowing viewers to add their own content and meaning to posts and/or tweets.

Sabrina shared  with the audience  the time she was live tweeting True Blood  and had to be careful with the time zone differences as East coast fans were able to view the show first followed by fans on the west coast. Discussion followed on Twitter about what transpired during the show and Sabrina discovered that Australian viewers were complaining about the spoilers as they were the last to view the episode. HBO Go and Twitter enables fans to have a conversation with actors from the shows. HBO Connect  is a popular area featuring live Q & A’s and recently held a session for Eastbound and Down that received 2000 questions in a span of thirty minutes.

Scott Rosenberg’s company Umami created an i-pad app that connects a users’ social media circle to include all the great content created by the super fans of any show/series and also measures where that viewer is in the show and what they are talking about on their social networks. Social media with interactive television enables viewers/fans to get more content about their favorite show and provides writers and producers with the ability to offer a rich branded experience. Scott believes that  television viewers are now seeing social media integrated on the first screen through commercials and promos during shows.

So how does this affect the viewing experience? Scott felt that other transmedia can be a distraction from the first screen, but it depends on the experience. It is best to try and make the conversation experience fun, but there may be too much noise from oversharing, and people cannot keep up with this overflow so may prefer some type of technology to filter it all.

Gayle Weiswasser sees social television as the second screen app providing content for fans/viewers to not only learn more, but talk  about their favorite Discovery Channel shows.  When Carlos from the TLC show Cake Boss made a Facebook birthday post he received 17,000 likes which revealed that fans love the connections and ability to post pictures and chat in different formats. Gayle uses this data to see what viewers ares sharing, checking in, and/or watching clips online.

Even though the DVR may have created more competition, Gayle believes viewers would rather tune into live television (as revealed by the  TV Guide Study) to avoid spoilers that show up on Twitter and Facebook. Gayle observed that social media creates more work for her current staff as it is impossible to feed all content platforms. Interested in a job at Discovery Channel? For new hires Gayle seeks out those that are  passionate about social media, knowledgable about all the shows, and is able to understand what types of content work with different audiences.

You can follow Sabrina Caluori on Twitter @sabrinacaluori

You can follow Scott Rosenberg on Twitter @scottrinnyc

You can follow Gayle Weiswasser on Twitter @gweiswasser

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