On a couple of occasions I’ve mentioned my disappointment with ABC for cancelling Selfie so quickly out of the gate. But Selfie is gaining a resurgent fan base, coincidentally, using social media. Twitter, blogs, petitions, and even charity fund raisers are being used to get the attention of anyone who will listen. This resurgence of interest can be credited to a suite I’ll call Intertainment: social media, streaming, mobile devices, and binge watching. The influence of these parameters on main-stream television is growing at such a rate that the networks need to pay attention.
Social media is a huge aspect of network television marketing, but mostly in the short term. It’s also used to promote a show’s characters and actors as bonus content outside of the scheduled programming. Unless it’s rerun season, though, networks don’t spend a lot of social media time on old episodes.
With Twitter, more than any social media before it, fans feel closer than ever to their celebrities. Fans receive real time messages and pictures from their idols the exact same way they do their closest friends and family. Twitter started a line-up of social media tools that provide you the latest information within seconds of it happening.
Streaming has been around for a while now. Internet services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon caught on to the Intertainment shift much quicker than the networks. HBO and Nickelodeon are launching their own streaming channels. It makes sense. Networks need eyeballs and streaming is convenient, customizable, and mobile. Recent statistics show that millennials (18 – 35 years of age) stream more television (67%)1 than watch it live. Live TV watching in this group dropped 19% in Q3 2014 from the year before.2 People don’t ask, “What’s on TV tonight?” anymore, they ask, “What are you streaming?”
Streaming also shows that when you provide the quality product people want they will pay for it. The biggest complaint with cable companies is you can’t just purchase the channels you want and, instead, get hundreds of channels of garbage. Among streaming viewers, 50% subscribed to services to get the shows they wanted and are willing to pay more for steaming without ads and for temporary downloads.1 I’ve done the same. Cable costs me $65 per month just so I have internet access. For the money it would cost me for premium channels, I pay for Hulu Plus, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Amazon on demand.
Mobile phones have been advertised as entertainment devices for a long time, initially as an MP3 player. With Android phones and now iPhones coming out with larger screens, a one-device-fits-all for mobile entertainment is coming into its stride. Book publishing companies are already adapting for the larger format phones which are more desirable in non-U.S. countries where the population doesn’t like carrying multiple devices (a phone, tablet, and laptop). Streaming on mobile devices dramatically multiplies the amount of time television networks can get eyes on their programming and increases the number of households that no longer watch live television.3
Binge watching is where viewers stream multiple episodes of a show, back-to-back, in one sitting. If there are five episodes of The Walking Dead on Amazon and I can watch as many as I want in one sitting, I’m not going to watch one and wait until next week to watch the next one. Why? Because I love the show and, when one is finished, I immediately want more. So if I don’t have one hour a week to watch my show, how do I have five hours straight? That stretch of time becomes available on weekends, holidays, and vacations. A Verizon study last year showed that 39% of millinneals binge watch, frequently watching up to eight episodes at a time.4
These four factors, social media, streaming, mobile devices, and binge watching, are creating a measureable, belated spike in a show’s viewer statistics. I call this late spike in a show’s popularity the Resurgence Curve and my theory is that Intertainment has created a Resurgence Curve for Selfie. It has picked up the viewship it didn’t have at the beginning of the season.
For viewers, social media is the here and now. If someone tweets, “I finally sat down last night and caught up with @SelfieABC. O.M.G!” then all of their followers, who do not watch Selfie, will remember that the next time they sit down to Hulu and everyone asks, “What are we going to watch?” With streaming, viewers can go back to episode one as if the season is just starting for them. And with a queue of multiple episodes available for streaming, especially an entire first season, binge watching creates a new fan and the retweeting begins.
The existence of a Resurgence Curve should cause networks to delay dropping the axe so quickly. Viewers are giving networks free marketing and programming surveys constantly through social media. Among those who stream television, more than half would love a say in whether a show gets cancelled or not.1
1 Harris: A Nielsen Company, “Cable is King but Streaming Stands Strong When it Comes to Americans’ TV Viewing Habits”, Larry Shannon-Missal, The Harris Poll #57, June 18, 2014, http://www.harrisinteractive.com/NewsRoom/HarrisPolls/tabid/447/mid/1508/articleId/1452/ctl/ReadCustom%20Default/Default.aspx
2 Marketing Charts, December 8, 2014, “Are Young People Watching Less TV?”, http://www.marketingcharts.com/television/are-young-people-watching-less-tv-24817/
3 Circa.ca News, Technology, January 29, 2015, “Survey: Most Millennials Don’t Watch Live TV”, http://cir.ca/news/cord-cutters-on-the-rise-1
4 MediaPost, “Verizon Report Says Millennials Watch 3X More TV Online Than Older Viewers”, P. J. Bednarski, March 6, 2014, http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/220911/verizon-report-says-millennials-watch-3x-more-tv-o.html