Is social engagement more important than ratings?

Social media is becoming an essential part of television broadcasting, according to one of the UK's leading production companies. The team behind internationally successful programs such as The X Factor, Britain's Got Talent and American Idol has acknowledged that the level of social engagement that a show can achieve is now the most crucial indicator of that programs success.

Fremantle Media's chief executive of digital and branded entertainment, Keith Hindle, told the Guardian this year that activity on sites like Twitter and Facebook have now become just as, if not more important, than actual viewing numbers.

Mr Hindle explained that although television is likely to "be here for a long time", the industry is reaching a significant turning point in regards to attracting investment and engaging with modern consumers.

Social media needs to be a primary focus in media strategies for both brands and broadcasters, he continued. 

"No longer is it: here's a content idea we're going to make, let's produce it, put it up and then let's think about the social engagement around it," he said.

"A few years ago, the only things that mattered was ratings. Now what matters more is the level of social engagement around the content."

In Australia, this shift is already being embraced with movements like ABC's Q&A Twitter-based initiatives. By engaging with television audiences in live Twitter conversations, the network is able to drive activity and increase its footprint over both platforms.

For Fremantle Media, the transformation exists in the very groundwork of programs. The company now maps, at the outset of each broadcast, the desired social engagement.

"There's a belief among major advertisers, associated with major pieces of content that the content is a paid media campaign to drive an earned media result. That's the really interesting shift," Mr Hindle concluded.

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