Will the Future of TV Be Social or Personal?


Google recently predicted that the future of TV will be more 'personal' and 'social'.

This at first seems a paradoxical statement and therefore one with which we can only half agree.

We feel that while yes, TV viewing will continue to become more personalised with an increasingly on-demand culture pushing aside traditional programmers schedules, it cannot become ‘personal’.

Humans are, in the words of Mark Earls, ‘a super-social ape’. We exist to converse, to chat, to gossip, and TV is arguably one of the most social forms of media. Some programmes in particular will always draw in a big ‘live’ audience and get the nation talking. The X Factor has had over 13m viewers for its final show for the last four years, generating huge amounts of chatter in the real and virtual world. X-Factor tweets represented 1% of the world’s tweets at its peak moments in last year’s live shows.

So personal, no. But social, yes and increasingly yes.

We’ll always want to hear what other people are watching and we’ll happily let that influence our viewing choices. The power of word of mouth has been amplified through the social web so that it is no longer a one-to-one recommendation, but a broadcast proclamation.

Twitter commentary forms an important part of the shared viewing experience for many and Facebook too sees new TV related groups and fan pages popping up on a daily basis.

The power of social recommendation is what brings the magic to the increasingly hot topic of content discovery (TV search). An algorithmic approach to content discovery, which you might expect from Google, simply misses the point if considered in isolation. If one of our motivations for watching TV is a sense of connection through, as The Guardian’s Simon Jenkins puts it, “the magnetism of congregation”, personal algorithms alone will not enhance the content.

What do you think? Are you chomping at the bit for a more personal TV experience? How do you view the linear schedule? And do you think we are right that the primary motivation for watching linear TV is to feel part of something bigger, with your fellow apes?

Kath Hipwell & Tim Whirledge, Strategic Planners