Last weekend’s Grammys brought increased ratings. Sure one reason was Whitney Houston’s death, but another was the result of live tweeting. Advertisers and networks alike have worked to draw viewers back in, and negate the effects of DVR, by encouraging and rewarding those who tune in live and engage with other content and viewers at the same time. During the Grammys, CBS, Shazaam and Yahoo’s IntoNow were engaging viewers alongside Twitter http://bit.ly/zUcjc5. CBS had its own app with backstage and pre-Grammy content, which featured prominent sponsor Target and generated music sales for them. With Shazaam an audio snippet opened up content that complemented every step of the show, including iTunes links to each performance’s download. Yahoo’s IntoNow featured discussion boards, tapped into Twitter, and focused on polls about viewer’s opinions of fashion and show content. All of these, an easy enough thing to be involved with during a live show with running commentary that’s not crucial to following the show and its key elements. Perhaps that’s why MediaPost’s Steve Smith points out that during a drama or comedy, where plot and dialogue are important, he’s more likely to stay tuned in and not engage on the side http://bit.ly/zu8sP2. He goes on to discuss how live-tweeting works for live programs but fails to capture an accurate picture of viewership and engagement with any other type of program. Some may say that is where rewards come in handy. On the flip side of social engagement is rewards engagement. Apps like Viggle reward viewers merely for watching the show. According to Daisy Whitney Viggle listens to a sample of the show and checks you into the show, earning you reward points simply for tuning into it http://bit.ly/w6jcuM. Additional points are gained from how long you watch, watching video ads, playing games and taking polls.
These points are redeemable for rewards, much like credit card purchases, as Viggle has paired itself with sponsors like Burger King, Fandango and Amazon among others. The recipient can either take the reward offer from the company or turn it into a charitable donation. While this seems like a more profitable way to measure engagement, it has its weaknesses too. There are not rewards for how often you tune in to a certain show, nor does it necessarily boost one show over another. In fact, neither of them measure any sort of continuity and can not physically see if you are really tuning in or just following along after catching a small bit of the show. Out of the two, social engagement is more likely to boost engagement because of the nature of the shows where it shines. Viewers are also more likely to tune in again if they make connections with other viewers. However it fails to work with other forms of programming. Rewards engagement sounds good in the short-term and seems to be able to sense how many people are tuning into a particular show. Yet its focus is too broad and fails to focus on retaining individuals. The engagement is a shallow one, i.e. watch a program and we’ll give you stuff, and so rewards engagement comes off sounding like a bribe. People do not watch to engage with the show or other viewers, they watch to get deals. They may watch one show one day, and another the next. It does not create long-term fans or necessarily long-term brand followers for that matter. It is hard to tell if viewers are tuning in for any particular reward or merely based on the fact that there are free rewards (brands being secondary to that premise). Perhaps some combination of the two or a more focused version of one would be more adept at gauging viewers and their engagement, perhaps not. The fact remains that different content and side content catches people’s eye and stations and advertisers still have a long ways to go in pinpointing that.