Viewers Rarely Start a New TV Show Because of Social Media

According to a new study by the Council for Research Excellence, conversations on social media have less influence than traditional factors, such as TV commercials for new shows or laziness in changing channels, in prompting audiences to watch a new show. In addition, only 16.1 percent of survey respondents say they use social media while watching prime time television, and less than half those participants typically use social networks to discuss the show they are watching.

These research findings contradict a widely held notion that Twitter and Facebook posts play a major role in driving people to watch TV shows. Only 6.8 percent of respondents cited a discussion on social media as the reason they tuned into a television show. Facebook, used by 11.4 percent of TV viewers, was the most popular social media platform, as compared to Twitter’s 3.3 percent.

Researchers did find some patterns in the demographics of people participating in online conversations about television. The people more likely to watch and post simultaneously were women, Hispanics, and people aged 25 to 34.

“Social media did have an impact on viewing choice, but it was still relatively small compared to traditional promotion,” said Beth Rockwood, senior vice president for market resources at Discovery Communications. Rockwood is also the chairwoman of the research group’s social media committee.

In contrast, nearly 40 percent of respondents credited TV commercials for a new show as the reason they tuned into a new show. About 10 percent of participants said they watched a new show simply because it appeared on the channel they were already watching.

Live events, such as sports games or award shows, usually sparked more online discussion. Twitter, in particular, views live events as one of its strengths. During the study, the Emmy Awards was a standout in the data.

The Council for Research Excellence conducted the study by surveying 1,665 respondents, ages 15 to 54. The sample was selected to be representative of the online population, and 22 percent of the entire survey group were “superconnectors,” people who actively follow shows and actors on social media and comment or interact with them several times a day.

“The participants used a mobile app to report any time they saw, heard or communicated something about prime-time TV shows over the course of 21 days last fall, as the new season’s lineup of TV shows made their debuts,” reports The New York Times.