The increasing number of TV viewers watching programming online is forcing the networks to develop integrated marketing programs that drive audiences in both directions.
There are tough questions to be answered -- What are the best ways to use the web to complement TV programs, and how can the Internet be used to get more people to watch shows live rather than stream them later?
For most folks viewing encompasses both media simultaneously -- 78 percent go online while watching TV, according to a Harris Interactive poll conducted for search engine blinkx. Only 25 percent go online to see Intenet content related to the show they are watching, which can't please network execs. This is partly because many shows don't promote related content during the shows, with the notable exception of the USA network.
However, 40% of those who are looking for related material are searching for products/services that appeared in or were advertised during the program they're watching. Perhaps more shows should promote interactive chats during or immediately after their broadcasts featuring someone - actor, writer, producer -- who works on the show. Getting people to talk about the show keeps the interest going and gives even more topics for discussions when people return to the office the next day. I've often thought that sporting events are ripe for interactive chats. Imagine the taunting between Red Sox and Yankees fans while those games are being telecast!
Another survey says that the number of people who watch TV shows online has surged from 25 to 43 percent over the last year, according to Solutions Research Group. The survey also found that 20% of the American online population watches TV on the web on a weekly basis -- more than the 14% who watch 's video-on-demand on cable.
Also disconcerting to the networks looking to tie up advertisers -- of viewers 18-34, one-third who had seen a prime time show during the past day saw a time-shifted program. In households with a DVR, 55% of the leading 20 shows were time-shifted. Prime time is no longer must see TV.
The networks should find some contests or promotions that rely on live TV watching. Only reality shows that are water cooler fodder have the luxury of expecting the majority of their audience to watch live, so networks need to give away promotional items or reveal some information that compels people to watch live.