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A new Yahoo!7 survey has revealed that social media is playing an increasingly larger role in influencing the television viewing habits of Australians.

The second annual Social TV Survey polled more than 7,000 online Australians late last year and found that almost half of the respondents (43%) used social media while watching television. 

42% of respondents said they had chosen to watch a particular show because of a social media recommendation and 38% said they became aware of television shows through Facebook and Twitter.

This was a 26% rise in both question categories on the previous year.

Kristin Carlos, Head of TV at Yahoo!7, said the findings highlight the rise of dual-screen TV viewing and show the change in Australian viewing habits: 

Last year’s survey found that Australians have a genuine appetite for the idea of Social TV and connecting with like minded fans around the shows they love.

This year, the survey results highlights social media’s increasing influence on how Australians discover new TV shows. 

Tweeting while watching

In the past, audiences had to call a friend to discuss how a favourite character had died, or wait until work the next day to dissect what had happened in the latest TV episode, but this isn’t the case anymore.

Social media has closed the time gap, allowing viewers to comment and interact with other fans as the show is actually unfolding.

Of those surveyed by Yahoo!7, 41% said they post on Facebook while watching television and 36% said they use a mobile phone to text or call friends and family while viewing their shows. 

These findings support data from the recent Yellow Pages Social Media Report, which found that 32% of those surveyed used social media while watching TV and 33% discussed TV on social media while watching it.

Almost half (46%) even said that using social media while watching TV increased their enjoyment levels.

The Yellow Pages report took the analysis further, breaking down the age categories of those using social media and TV at the same time, finding that the trend is particularly strong with those in their 20s.

Somewhat surprisingly, when it came to discussing TV on social media while watching it live, the two largest age groups doing this were those 14 - 19 years of age (57%) and those aged 65+ (43%). 

Bringing people back to real time viewing

Tablet TV viewing did rise in the Yahoo!7 survey, doubling to 10% from the year previous, but it seems a large proportion of Australians still prefer to watch television in it’s traditional setting, with 72% of respondents saying they like to watch TV shows live rather than recording and watching them later.

These results show that consumers are being increasingly sucked back into experiencing television events in real time, challenging the nottion that there is an rapidly growing appetite for on-demand media consumption, fuelled especially by mobile devices.

Where it’s headed

Social media is continuing to change the way audiences engage with television shows, as viewers are increasingly multitasking on digital devices and sharing experiences across multiple channels.

The fact that the Super Bowl alone generated 24.1 million tweets this year, up from 13.7 million in 2012, is evidence of this trend and the way it is headed.

Reading a witty comment posted on Twitter about a TV show gives viewers a sense of inclusion, as does seeing a status update from a friend about a show they’re also watching.

Suddenly the viewer is connected to other friends and fans and can feel a sense of inclusion that transcends location, age and gender. 

One commentator, Reggie James from Digital Clarity, suggests that the social TV trend is changing the landscape for broadcasters and advertisers - in a good way - and should be capitalised on by marketers: 

Up until 12 months ago, TV was struggling to reach the younger market as more and more channels were becoming available.

Social TV has changed this completely turning programs into online events where you have to watch them as they happen.

The audience have already taken their seats and are ready to join the conversation. It’s now up to the TV companies to tap into this huge and lucrative market. 

This idea is backed by Michelle Prak, who believes that bringing people back to this real time viewing can translate into significant dollars for television networks.

When TV networks harness social media in this way, they’re drawing people back to ‘live’ TV rather than delayed or taped viewing, which many people have been using in order to avoid watching commercials.

For the networks and their advertisers, hashtags are providing golden new opportunities.

It not only encourage people to watch shows, but to share what they’re watching with others who may not have tuned in. 

[Image credit: paz.ca]

Claire Brinkley

Published 20 February, 2013 by Claire Brinkley

Claire Brinkley is Econsultancy Australia's news and insight reporter. Follow her on Twitter, Google+ or connect with her on LinkedIn

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