If you’ve never heard of “Sharknado,” chances are that you don’t have a Twitter account.
By all accounts, the show was a lesson in social media trends, proving that media hype can often trump award-winning content. In fact, this Syfy C-list movie — starring Tara Reid — was a Twitter winner. It generated 318,000 tweets after the first airing and garnered 500,000 more viewers for the second airing.
While TV promos, network Web sites and word-of-mouth are still viable methods of generating interest for Pay TV subscriptions and services, social media can also be a deciding factor. In fact, a spring 2013 report found that 41 percent of TV watchers learn about new shows through social media. The report also found that 69 percent of viewers interact with friends and other fans via social networking after viewing shows, which widens the ripple effect that social media has on popular broadcasts.
The hype from various social media trends can mean big business for Pay TV companies. Thanks to a rise in Internet TV and media streaming services, Pay TV providers are feeling the strain of slower growth and smaller contracts. But getting what is basically free advertising from loyal viewers can make all the difference. After all, it could be said that HBO’s wildly popular “Game of Thrones” was the world’s first social media darling. Whether recapping plot twists or looking for spoilers, “GoT” fans practically swarm Twitter and Facebook after each episode, piquing interest and getting the word out.
But the push for social media mentions isn’t all perfect. While trending topics can get a popularity boost, it’s also opening up the conversation surrounding Pay TV versus Internet options: Premium channels may still require subscriptions, but fans are starting to wonder when stand-alone purchasing will be available. What’s more, viewers can easily learn about their fave shows via social media, find contraband ways to watch an entire season of an exclusive series and read spoilers, negating the need for a Pay TV subscription.
Companies must find ways to harness social media and use it as a force for good in the Pay TV arena. By generating interest for exclusive content, more viewers will be pushed to sign up for subscriptions to gain access to premium channels, special sporting events and their favorite cable channels — even if that means tweeting about sharks and tornadoes. The result could be access to a ready-made subscriber base willing to create hype and advertise programming for free.