TV Transformed: the role of social media

In a special collection of articles, the New York Times explores how viewer behaviour is changing and how programme makers and broadcasters are responding.

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The conclusion is that television has transformed itself from a solitary, one-way viewing and writing experience to something much more complex and rich. Indeed, many commentators believe we are in a 'Platinum Age' of television.

One essay explores how social media has impacted how people make, and interact with, television content.  Communal, social TV viewing and real-time response (Twitter has been the leading platform for this) enhance the pleasure of the ‘live broadcast’ viewers.  The immediacy of this feedback is something that actors may not have experienced outside of live performance and many are embracing the opportunity. US drama Scandal is considered a social TV success – its cast and crew are active on Twitter during episode broadcasts and hundreds of thousands of viewers take part.  Indeed "For some Scandal devotees watching the show without following tweets about Scandal is a lesser experience, like watching it in black-and-white, or on mute".

Fans of BBC Radio’s The Archers Omnibus tweetalong will recognise this phenomenon.

Communal tools don’t just let you 'hear the gasps of other viewers'.  They also mean you can react to other people’s responses.

Communal viewing via Snapchat - every day, Snapchat sends out a handful of new videos to every user.  The videos are not personalised or targeted.  Instead every viewer experiences the same films on the same day.

Periscope provides live video enhanced by audience comments and experiences.

Vine’s looped six second videos provide opportunities for creative and humourous creators.

The writers of Pretty Little Liars respond to fans’ theories using Instagram and Twitter.  This maintains interest in the programme, even during the off-season, but also shows that audience response can affect how the programme develops.  In fact, the ways in which people watch TV can impact how writers write.  The increasingly complex story arcs of such shows as True Detective are possible because audiences will tend to watch several episodes at once and are (in theory) able to keep hold of many narrative strands.

TV Transformed – a special report by the New York Times.