Social media helps extend live-worthy programming beyond sports,
news and weather - stemming the time-shifting tide by making live
viewing a richer experience than time-shifted.
According to a recent Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA) study, the use of
TiVo (Nasdaq: TIVO) and other DVRs to time-shift is up 60% from a
year ago and 80% over two years. Other than sports, news and
weather, are viewers destined to stop watching live TV? Many treat
it as a foregone conclusion that cord cutting will kill linear TV,
eliminate the need for consumers to maintain linear video
subscriptions to cable and satellite and destroy ad-supported
television models along with the major networks. This is reflected
in the low growth expectations for the major providers of video
Click to enlarge:
Source: Yahoo Finance, Standard & Poor's, September 17,
The lower average P/E indicates that the market expects slower
growth rate than the S&P 500 overall with only Verizon and
DirecTV edging out the S&P. The argument is that if all
programming is time shifted, then live TV does not matter and
expensive linear video subscription packages become
Hold on a second. While time shifting will continue to increase,
that does not equate to cord cutting. One often overlooked factor
is that availability of streaming through Netflix (
) and Amazon ( NASDAQ: AMZN) combined with the convenience of DVRs
has led to an increase in the amount of viewing time. According to
Nielsen's Q1 Three Screens report, the number of hours spent
watching TV in homes increased by about 2 hours, while the
time-watching time shifted from TV increased by 1 hour 15 minutes.
It seems that all PC and mobile viewing, along with much of the
time-shifting, is incremental. So an increase in on-demand, PC and
mobile does not mean a reduction in traditional TV time.
Something big is emerging
Another factor is social TV, including co-viewing, where viewers
will discuss shows online and watch together, sometimes at a
distance. In their 2009 report, Nielsen found 59% watch TV while
simultaneously browsing the internet and the percentage of time
spent doing so has increased by 34% in the past year - more people,
more often - but still only 3.1% of viewing time.
Social media can stem the time-shifting tide
Most of the conversations regarding social TV revolve around apps
or websites and how they can be used to expand audiences while
monetizing the online component. Lost in this conversation is the
important role that social media is playing in promoting the
watching of live TV.
Television watching is a social activity where we enjoy watching
in groups and discussing with friends. Twitter and Facebook expand
the intimate group of television watching beyond the living room to
friends anywhere. Meanwhile, Google (
) TV is trying to gain leverage by mashing it together on one
screen. I've watched my children evolve from watching everything on
TiVo to demanding to see shows live. It is important to them that
they see Modern Family, Pretty Little Liars and other shows live -
exactly the opposite of conventional wisdom. Picture the room - two
children, one TV, two laptops, two phones for texting - multiple
Why is that? By connecting through Facebook they get instant
reactions from friends to the story as it happens. On the other
hand, if they don't watch the program live, they may have to avoid
these outlets (as if that's even possible), since they are sure to
be full of spoilers.
Major implications and prescriptions
Live viewers are not only more valuable to advertisers but
important to preserving cable and satellite TV subscription. Social
TV is an antidote to cord-cutting by making linear television a
must-have. With the trend just emerging, networks, cable and
satellite operators need to encourage this behavior. Some easy
Build platforms to encourage interaction
: In addition to putting applications on the TV through
built-in apps or the set-top box (with or without Google),
smart phones, tablets and laptops need to be considered a
major, perhaps the major platform. ABC (
) recently announced a
for the iPad that uses audio cues to sync application content
with action on the screen for 'My Generation' a new fall show.
While it's unclear whether this will promote live-viewing,
directionally this makes a lot of sense.
Promote the place
: Promote the platforms during shows to encourage live
conversation and show time-shifters what they missed.
Integrate conversations into the show
: Late Night with Jimmy Fallon had "Watch Jimmy with Jimmy
Week" in May, where he
with fans during his recorded show. What a great model.
Be smart with content distribution
: Employ strategies that give viewers more value for watching
live to make cord cutting less attractive.
Look toward frenemies
: Ustream and YouTube's live streaming provide a channel for
co-viewing and interacting with show hosts, like Jimmy Fallon,
and cast members.
Buried here is an aspect of one-to-one marketing. While making
live viewing matter to most of the audience for any one show is
prize worthy, it is not the only way to win. Winning live viewers
in small segments across a large number of shows also makes
networks and linear TV relevant - you can win with many shows that
are important to a small percentage of households in addition to
trying to find a few hits that are important to a large percentage
of households. In fact, here is where network economics kicks in:
The more networks that produce live-worthy TV, the better for all.
That's because it reinforces the habit of watching things live,
rather than diluting their impact.
These behaviors are still being formed with just a small amount of
time spent watching and browsing at the same time, but the growth
rates are significant, so if the social TV trend continues, video
sub should remain strong.
Long TWC, CMCSA
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