Binge Watching: The End of Second Screen Social Sharing?

Two media trends came into vogue in a big way in 2013: binge watching and the second screen experience.

Bing Watching is the “New Normal”

A new study by Netflix (arguably the trend’s standard-bearer) called binge watching the “new normal.”

A majority of those surveyed (73 percent) defined binge watching as viewing between 2-6 episodes of the same TV show in one sitting, and there seems to be no guilt associated with the behavior. Nearly three quarters of TV streamers say they have positive feelings towards binge streaming TV, revealed the study.

Having gorged on our fair share of television programs — Homeland, Breaking Bad, Nurse Jackie and Downton Abbey to name a few — my wife and I are poster children for binge watching and can ardently testify to its all consuming allure. Frequently, we stay up well past our bedtime to view “just one more episode.”

Social Sharing: The Second Screen Experience

According to a report from BI Intelligence, 46 percent of U.S. smartphone owners and 40 percent of tablet owners said they used their devices while watching TV on a daily basis.

Often, viewers band together on social networks to comment on scenes in real-time, so much so that Twitter built a media business around the use of such content to promote advertising.

How Will One Trend Affect the Other?

As they become more popular, how will streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Instant affect viewers’ second screen social media sharing habits, especially in light of the fact that many people watch TV programs via mobile devices and computers?

“As more people turn to Netflix and other delivery services to ‘catch up’ on series they’ve missed, the social element of television, that famous water-cooler factor, is the first casualty,” said the LA Times.

Verne Gay, writing for Newsday, said binge watching would erase the social media bond fans have forged over the course of a series, turning viewing into a “lonely, solipsistic” pursuit.

As dire as those predictions may seem, it’s not all bad news. For example, the very mention of last year’s release of House of Cards caused Twitter and Facebook to erupt with thousands of posts every hour.

How Brands Can Take Advantage of Both Trends

Let’s not throw the binge watching baby out with the bathwater. Consider these facts:

  • Binge watchers are avid fans. People who couch potato themselves in front of their TV for several hours watching episode after episode of a given program must mean they are loyal, and even avid fans.
  • Binge watchers will continue to use social media to interact. Just because people have chosen “on-demand” to “linear” television viewing does not mean they won’t connect via social media. We still desire the tribal camaraderie that takes place when a common experience is shared, even if it’s not concurrently in real-time.

With that in mind, here are some tactics marketers can take:

1. Enrich the Viewing Experience with Show Facts & Trivia.

In his best-selling book, Youtility, marketing expert Jay Baer says that brands have to focus on being useful. In that respect, think about the types of content you can provide that will enrich a viewer’s experience such as interesting facts and trivia. Present second screeners with information they may not take time to research on their own, but would be more than happy to pass along to their friends and followers.

2. Tie Twitter Promoted Posts to Show-related Hashtags.

If people are gathering around a common hashtag, it makes sense to create a promotional campaign associated with it, so long as the content is relevant and adds value.

3. Offer Show-related Social Contests and Sweepstakes.

Another way to gain attention from binge watchers is by hosting contests and sweepstakes that offer show-related prizes. Polls are yet another way to engage the audience around your brand.

4. Participate as a Viewer.

In the age of conversation marketers should not limit themselves to targeting (some might say “spamming”) a particular audience with ads and other promotions. Participating as a member in relevant communities of practice may prove just as fruitful.

Binge watching does not have to ring a death knell to social sharing via the second screen. Even though interaction may not take place in real-time, marketers can leverage viewer interest by participating in program-related conversations and promotional campaigns.

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