Social media influences repeat viewers of TV shows

Social media shows influence on regular viewers of television shows but has little impact on drawing new or infrequent viewers to a show, according to new findings by the Council for Research Excellence (CRE).

The effect of social media on regular viewers – or, “repeaters” – of a television show is much higher relative to the impact on people who infrequently sample a show, according to the findings. Infrequent viewers are mainly influenced by off-line word-of-mouth, which can be five to 10 times as effective as social media in reaching these potential viewers. Conversely, TV show promos were found potentially to be a distraction for repeaters of that show.

The findings are from the recently completed academic analysis of data from the extensive, multi-pronged study, “Talking Social TV,” spearheaded by the CRE’s Social Media Committee. The academic review was conducted by a team including Peter Fader of The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Mitchell Lovett of the Simon School of Business at the University of Rochester, and Renana Peres of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

A second study into the relationship of social media and TV viewing, encompassing a lengthier survey of respondents using mobile apps as diaries, also has been approved by the CRE, and is expected to launch later this year.

“This academic review has helped us in numerous ways,” said Beth Rockwood, senior vice president, market resources, of Discovery Communications, who chairs the CRE’s Social Media Committee. “It’s helped us to identify two distinct types of viewers – the ‘repeaters’ and the ‘infrequents’; to understand the relative roles of demographics and program genre in determining the impact of social media; and to observe the effects of different forms of communication on viewers.

“While our ‘Talking Social TV’ study found social media incrementally influential in drawing viewers to new shows as opposed to existing shows,” Rockwood noted, “these latest findings suggest social media may have a stronger role in building relationships with a show for existing viewers than in drawing newer viewers to that show. If programmers already have a regular viewer watching their show, they can engage them further.”