The Oscars on March 7 pulled in its highest ratings in five years: 41.3 million viewers. But this coup was only the most recent in a string of TV events that saw an uptick in viewers, and many are attributing this trend to increased social media where consumers can once again take part in a shared experience, even if watching the tube (or laptop) miles apart.
Fans tweeted about hockey as the US played Canada twice during the 2010 Winter Olympics and followed the competition during the Super Bowl. The Grammys and Golden Globes saw ratings increases over the year before, in part due to social media, while the MTV Video Music Awards nearly broke Twitter when Kanye West interrupted Taylor Swift.
Knowing this will take place, most communicators actively prepare for a storm of social media conversation that can swing wildly in your favor at one moment, and wildly against you in another. But for marketers who count on the reach of big entertainment and sports events broadcast on TV, finding ways to extend that opportunity beyond the hourly timeframe, as well as keeping viewers glued to their seats, has become the new game rather than reactive action.
And it's a multichannel, multidisciplinary thought process that will rein in the most success. That means putting aside the “I own it/you own it,” digital fight between PR, ad, and marketing. The Oscars are a prime example of this collaboration.
The Academy enlisted PR, advertising, and online and mobile marketing to drum up interest, extend engagement, and prolong exposure for their event – and brand supporters. It used live streaming, added an iPhone/iTouch app to allow users to view movie trailers and to participate in real-time during the Oscars. And on Oscar.com, consumers could compete against friends and predict winners, answer trivia questions and compare scores in the "Live Challenge." The Academy used the opportunity to offer viewers the option to sign up for its e-newsletters, RSS feeds, and mobile alerts, benefitting its e-mail database for future marketing opportunities but also providing a way to continue connecting with new fans throughout the year.
The original worry was that the Internet and social media would hurt TV viewership, but with communicators stepping in, online networking can impact TV for the better.