Television is a social medium

This story from the Economist quotes a recent quantitative study into TV viewing habits which suggests that despite the rise of PVRs and online, on-demand video most people seem to want to watch TV at the time at which it is broadcast.

It seems that people still really want TV to be a shared cultural experience, despite the fact that they love their PVRs and iPlayer, etc. In other words: television is a social medium. In fact, one of the odder things about this study is that most people greatly overstate the amount of timeshifted content they watch compared to the ‘live’ broadcast material.

What’s going on here? Well it won’t come as much of a surprise to planner types that people aren’t doing what they say they are, however, it would seem that what’s happening is that people place a great value on the ability to choose, even though they infrequently exercise that choice. A similar phenomenon applies to commenting on Internet sites – people value the opportunity to comment and contribute despite the fact that few exercise it.

However, while television is a social medium, television audiences are informally and poorly networked.

I think this suggests that there’s a great opportunity being missed by shows like X Factor, etc, which should really be capitalising on the opportunities the Internet and social media offer to connect audiences during and after the live event. Turning TV into a truly social medium.

3 comments about “Television is a social medium

  1. […] None of this is anything like conclusive evidence that the ‘general population’ is more interested in the backchannel than the channel itself. However, it does ask a series of interesting questions about the social mediation of events. As I’ve written about before, television is a social medium. […]

  2. Doesn’t iTV allow viewers to interact with the shows thats being broadcasted?
    Yes, it is very limited interms of interaction with other viewers, but this is something still in progress, but nothing new. However, very interesting questions indeed.

    • john says:

      ITV does have a limited text based system for some shows, however, it isn’t based on the social graph, and for my money that’s where the action is. People want to talk about things with their friends, not a ‘bunch of randomers’ as my teenage niece calls them.

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