So•cial Au•di•ence (noun): a fragmentation of the real audience based on how they interact with social networks (Quintas-Froufe, 83)
So•cial Tel•e•vi•sion (noun): real-time backchannel communication on social networking sites (SNSs) during a live television broadcast (Lim, Hwang, Kim & Biocca, 158)
The Social Sphere
Television storytelling now longer stops when the program ends. Thanks to the vast social world that has developed through digital media, characters and stories extend long past the average 22-minute sitcom or 42-minute drama. As Megan Wood and Linda Baughman explored in their article "Glee Fandom and Twitter: Something New, or More of the Same Old Thing?", many shows have such a following that the characters have role-playing Twitter accounts. Two of the main characters from Glee, which ended March 2015 after six seasons, Kurt and Blaine, both have accounts that often interact with one another. Spoiler alert - they were married as revealed in the finale. So now, almost a year and a half after the show has ended, fans of Glee can still follow along the lives of this beloved couple. These accounts aren't run by anyone associated with the show, yet they continue the narrative of the story. Other fans can engage with them, and allow the show to essentially live on. This is a great example of tv existing in the social world.
A New Way to Rate
Social networks provide a whole new realm of insights to executives. "This audience provides TV executives with numerous positive elements. Their comments on a program can be seen live and come cost-free. They inform executives about what works and what needs to be tweaked. Studies on social audiences reveal the tastes and interests of each and every social spectator, all of which is vital data for the sale of advertising space. Some studies, such as those by Nielsen, have also shown that there is a correlation between the number of comments on a program and an increase in traditional audience viewing figures for a program." (Quintas-Froufe, 84).
Likewise, when a fanbase is unhappy with something that occurs in a show, they have a voice. In the popular CW show Arrow, a very well-loved character was killed off in an undignified way. To make sure the writers and powers-that-be knew how they felt, the fans took to Twitter and trended #NoLaurelNoArrow worldwide. It's clear their voices were heard. The backlash was so strong, many fans boycotted the show after that, resulting in record low ratings for the series. The shows dedicated Subreddit even turned into a Daredevil themed forum after the season ended, because they were so disappointed.
In response, for the 100th episode of the show (approximately 12 episodes later, into the next season), the writers brought back this character in a way that finally redeemed her story.
An Extended Universe
Many shows have taken advantage of the opportunities presented through social media. One series that has done it well is the Chicago set of shows from Dick Wolf - Chicago Fire, Chicago PD, Chicago Med, and upcoming Chicago Justice. On October 24, 2016, NBC hosted a "One Chicago Day" event, filled with exclusive interviews, Facebook live streams, audience engagement with stars of the shows and access to special content through Twitter and Instagram. The live event, hosted in Chicago, was trending on Twitter for most of the day, and many other media sources took part in the event. Entertainment Weekly, Yahoo, and of course NBC all took part of #OneChicagoDay. This event was for fans, and gave them an opportunity to see the cast and crew in a whole new way. It was an opportunity to learn, and nothing like this would've been possible if it weren't for digital media. Some highlights from the day are included below. A quick search of the hashtag on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter shows results that even weeks after the event, fans of the shows are still talking about it.
The Chicago shows are simply one example of a network taking advantage of all that digital media has to offer. Other ways digital media expands the show-verse is through hosting AMA's on Reddit (see Peter Dinklage, better known as Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones), posting extended scenes or behind-the-scenes footage on YouTube, having cast members live tweet along as new episodes air (which Twitter reported as one of the best ways to build a social audience for your show - see blog post here), and as new channels arise, so will new methods. Lately, as Snapchat has increased in popularity, some stars even find posting to Snapchat as their shows air to really build a connection.