Let's say you're watching Anderson Cooper pepper the stars of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills with questions this afternoon on his new daytime talk show. While you might enjoy chilling out on a comfy couch while the CNN anchor gets the latest gossip, there’s a new generation of viewers experiencing the show beyond the living room. Thanks to a number of social media initiatives, team Anderson is diving head first into one of the hottest trends in 2011: social TV.
From the show's non-stop Twitter feed to the backstage Tumblr blog, there’s no shortage of activity happening beyond the late afternoon broadcast of the program. You can ask questions and get answers from Cooper on YouTube, follow him on Facebook with 61,000 other “friends,” and unlock fan badges on GetGlue (on five different mobile platforms). Oh, and let's not forget the interactive timeline of the host's life, complete with audio, photos, and in-line video.
While Anderson may top the charts for most social show of the new fall television season, there’s lot of other competition. During the 2010-2011 season, TVGuide.com reported that NCIS, American Idol, and Criminal Minds were the top social media shows based on Facebook activity and comments on the guide's site. They also reported that out of viewers who talk about television on Twitter, 62 per cent engage before their favourite show airs, 69 per cent after, and 47 per cent during the program.
In Canada, the television industry is starting to get in on the action. This week, CBC announced its Heartland social game on Facebook, which lets fans of the popular TV series run their own virtual horse ranch. Tom Hastings, CBC's creative head of drama, explains in a press release that they're hoping to appeal to existing viewers but also to bring new audiences to the show. Other networks in this country are also working hard to expand programming to the web, set-top boxes, and smartphones.
Five years ago there was a lot of talk about ‘the end of TV as we know it.’ What we're seeing today, in fact, is not so much about the Internet taking over television or vice versa, but rather the integration of both platforms in a way that appeals to this new wave of viewers. This shift means that TV teams are starting to take on new responsibilities, outside of studios and into cyberspace.
Anderson is a good example of how this marriage can work. In the time I've written this post, they've updated their Twitter account with eight new messages, keeping audiences on the edge of their seats until today's show starts and airs, and well after it ends.