Social TV could ultimately revive appointment viewing after years of DVR dominance.
But just how cable programmers and advertisers are using and benefiting from that was a focal point during Ad Age 's Social Engagement/Social TV conference taking place in New York on Wednesday.
Social activity during TV's prime time has skyrocketed 193% since just last year, said Mark Ghuneim, CEO and founder of Wiredset and Trendrr. That kind of growth means programmers are looking at social-media chatter not just as an amplifier of TV programming but as content in its own right.
At Bravo, social interactions are now being planned in the initial stages of conception and production, said Lisa Hsia, exec VP-digital media at Bravo Media. Her network has actually seen a ratings lift on reruns by creating social editions of shows, and its newest series, "Around the World in 80 Plates," premiering tonight, already has plenty of buzz because of a Twitter contest.
Meanwhile, Viggle, which rewards users with points for checking in to a TV show, has emerged as a key social TV player since launching its app three months ago. In that time, Viggle has been downloaded 800,000 times, with users engaging an average of 93 minutes per session and checking in to five different shows during that time.
Capitol One, a major sponsor of NCAA TV content, partnered with Viggle during March Madness. Viggle asked questions during games, and users responded to 40 to 50 questions with little drop-off for the duration of the game, said Mike Darne, Capitol One's senior director-social media and mobile marketing. Even its branded questions had a steady response rate.
Viggle's reminder function, which allows users to schedule shows, is the most-used feature of the app, said Chris Stephenson, president of Viggle. He said that indicates a return to more appointment viewing, as well as interest in specific shows, something advertisers are taking advantage of .
"We are moving toward a program-based model," said Aaron Lilly, media and branded entertainment at Bing, which has partnered with Viggle. "People love 'Top Chef' and want to consume content" about it, Mr. Lilly said.
The next phase of social TV is fan co-creation and recognition, Ms. Hsia said. This has been uncharted territory, but Bravo will experiment with "The Real Housewives Hidden Object" game, which will let players earn points that can be used toward becoming the newest housewife.
Ms. Hsia said she is also looking for something to link all this together and expressed the need for an aggregated rewards platform for social TV.
The challenge for brands, added Mr. Darne, is how to scale social TV.