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The social media TV age dawns

Passive TV watching is a thing of the past. That was the underlining message of a new speech by Twitter UK chief Tony Wang. He encouraged broadcasters to find more creative ways of using the social network to reflect their viewers’ viewing habits.

Wang referred to poll results suggesting that 80% of under-25s use mobile phones, laptops or iPads to communicate with friends while watching TV, while 72% will comment on TV shows on Twitter, Facebook or forums.

Wang obviously felt that broadcasters could make more effort to acknowledge the new way younger viewers were watching TV. Broadcasters, he said, could be divided into those who ignored this, those who made passing acknowledgement of the phenomenon, and those who were trying to engage more creatively. "It's the past, present and future of social TV," he said.

For some broadcasters, it has been difficult to overcome a resistance to the idea of constant Twitter commentaries on their shows. BBC policy director John Tate recently argued that while interactivity was an asset, there was a danger of overdoing it. He suggested that viewers preferred to be absorbed in shows like Sherlock or Frozen Planet rather than be constantly tweeting their opinions. Wang disagreed.

"People are definitely engaging with the shows whether it's a social programme, or something that's more intense and serious, as that BBC article had mentioned," he said. From the broadcasters’ point of view, he added, they had to realise that social media were vital in developing an audience for shows and in retaining viewer interest.

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