According to research firm Statista, around one million households across the world start to use Subscription Video On Demand (SVOD) services each week. The amount of subscription-based services has increased over the years: Netflix and Amazon Prime have been joined by Now TV and Hulu, and later this year Disney+ launches. Viewers are also beginning to subscribe to more than one SVOD service, with the SVOD Report showing that just under four million Brits have two SVOD subscriptions.
With more and more television consumers turning to online streaming sites, it would be easy to assume that ‘Appointment TV’ has gone merrily down the stream. However, many TV shows are ensuring their place on our screens through the use of social media.
Appointment TV vs. SVOD
‘Appointment TV’ is the name given to television programming that people make time to watch when it’s originally broadcast. This is because viewers are eager to find out what will happen, at the exact time it happens. Often, there’s a community aspect to this – watching with friends or family, or chatting about the show at work the next day. While we may stream television with others, the lack of an ‘appointment’ means that the community aspect is confined to those that we are actually viewing with.
A great benefit of SVOD services is that they use data-driven recommendations to suggest TV shows and films that they think we will like the most, based on our preferences and viewing history. While highly personalised and ultimately better for the subscriber, this fragments audiences and means we all end up watching something different – ruining the water cooler nature of television viewing.
The social saviour
This suggests that the community aspect of Appointment TV viewing is what can ultimately stop it from being washed away by SVOD services. A fantastic way that shows have grown their communities is by encouraging interaction via social media.
One of the first shows to heavily promote their own hashtag was TOWIE, which encouraged viewers to tweet about what had happened during the show in the ad breaks. The use of the hashtag allowed viewers to find likeminded individuals, share memes and actually speak out in a way that could be noticed by the cast.
Each year, Kantar releases research on the most tweeted about shows of the year. I took a look at the top shows of 2017 (sorry, the 2018 data isn’t available yet) – and the top 19 were from regular, Appointment TV shows. Topping the leader board was ITV’s Love Island, which was tweeted about 7 million times over the year – these tweets had a total of 2 billion impressions. Next came Question Time, then Game of Thrones. The top show from an SVOD service was #20 – Stranger Things.
So why are we tweeting about Appointment TV more? There are multiple possibilities. It could be due to shows copying TOWIE and encouraging viewers to use their hashtags – Love Island certainly does. It could be that show’s structure needs engagement, such as Question Time. Alternatively, it could just be that viewers are so shocked about what’s just happened on the show that they are watching that they feel urged to share their thoughts, which is likely the case for Game of Thrones.
The fact is, no one knew if anyone else was watching Stranger Things at the same time as them. Tweeting about a SVOD show might feel like shouting into the void, unaware if anyone out there is listening – and being afraid that you might share a spoiler and ruin someone else’s viewing experience.
Increasing your social media community
So what are the top tips for TV shows trying to grow their social media community? One way is to promote your show’s start time on Twitter – it now has a feature where viewers can opt-in to be reminded that the show is starting. This not only ensures that the viewer watches, but also helps to make the connection between your show and Twitter.
In addition, Twitter states that cast and show accounts live-tweeting episodes will cause a 64% lift in conversations. You can also anticipate the hot topics of your episode. If you know that a particular moment of your show will cause buzz, enhance it by posting a poll at the time it airs, or share a question for viewers to respond to.
Despite competition from SVOD services, Appointment TV isn’t dead yet. If shows are able to spark conversations on social media, they can ensure that the community aspect of viewing continues – both for the enjoyment of the viewer, and for their own futures.