The other day I mentioned that I like to Twitter when I'm watching football on TV. My wife doesn't watch, and if I'm not in a pub, it's a way of sharing the experience. Then on Saturday it was the Eurovision Song Contest. I started to watch it, but put a DVD on, then when I looked at Twitter it was awash with Eurovision comments. It struck me that Eurovision was in many ways the perfect Twitter event. It is, in fact, quite boring (none of the songs are any good), so there is plenty of time to Twitter. At the same time, it is quite enjoyable and provokes comment, so there is a desire to share. And you know that it is a communal event, so others will be watching too.
There's not much broadcasters can do with this, except maybe set up a Twitter id (e.g. Woganesque commentator during Eurovision), but this ability to share the experience online may be the the thing that saves scheduling. Sky Plus and the iPlayer have pretty much destroyed the notion of scheduling, but for programmes and events you want to share, then it has to be done at the allotted time. This obviously applies to live events (sports mainly), but also to any programme people might congregate around. It could be The Apprentice (AJ likes to tweet about this), or Eastenders.
Gapingvoid may have been dismayed by the Brits twittering about Eurovision, but in this respect his talk of social objects is correct. The future of television is not in it being a solitary experience, but in being a social one.
Think of these as 'flash social networks' – Jyri Engestrom argues that "social
networks consist of people who are connected by a shared object.” Around TV we may see these social networks form for the duration of a programme and then dissipate. The key challenge for broadcasters is to facilitate this without stamping all over it, or going creepy treehouse on it.
[Update – Darren Waters had beaten me to it on this]