Tweet TV: How Social Media is Making Television Fun Again

Nearly 37 million people watched the 87th Annual Academy Awards on Sunday, down from 44 million last year. Many reasons may have contributed to the viewership drop, everything ranging from the show’s host performance, to the celebrity of the actors themselves, to the types of films that were nominated.

Ellen DeGeneres' selfie at the 2014 Annual Academy Awards.

Ellen DeGeneres’ selfie at the 2014 Annual Academy Awards.

For many pundits that offered critiques of this year’s Oscars, reviews bordered on ho-hum and boring. But what may have been seen as a luck-luster TV event, much of the action was happening on social media, more so on Facebook than on Twitter.

It’s hard not to watch a live TV event these days without being asked to tweet this or hashtag that. This year’s Academy Awards were no exception. While Twitter generated far less interaction than last year, 6 million tweets were posted about the 2015 #Oscars, still a fairly significant number of impressions.

Remember last year’s Ellen DeGeneres’ selfie that actually “broke” Twitter for 20 minutes? The talk-show host’s photo was retweeted 3.3 million times and seen by 37 million people. Experts valued the exposure to Samsung (a sponsor of The Oscars and the type of smartphone that was used to snap the photo) in the hundreds of millions of dollars. While having several of Hollywood’s top A-list celebs in the photo certainly helped it go viral, the tweet nonetheless was a successful integration of TV and social media.

Facebook this year received more engagement, where 21 million people generated 58 million posts, likes or comments about the Oscars, up from 11.1 million users in 2014 generating 25 million interactions. The social network this year also introduced its Trending Oscars experience that allowed fans to connect in real time about Sunday’s show, which may have led to the huge engagement.

Clearly, the social experience between Twitter and Facebook is much different, although one thing is abundantly clear for both: engagement. Today’s social platforms enable two-way communication in real time like never before. And because tweets and posts are searchable and have a long life span – which may not always be a good thing – the value of engagement is much greater.

For the naysayers about social media, and there are those still out there, new media platforms are extending brands way beyond the TV set and onto the Internet, where discussions continue on for days and even months.

For TV in particular, social media may be giving it a sorely needed boost, especially since fewer people than ever are watching television. Good content doesn’t hurt either. Either way, social media is here to stay and actually making TV fun again.

The Academy Awards? That’s Entertainment

Mark Boal, Kathryn Bigelow and Greg Shapiro of "The Hurt Locker"

Mark Boal, Kathryn Bigelow and Greg Shapiro of "The Hurt Locker"

Just imagine the drama setting upon the Academy Awards in 1939 when three great films were among the nominees for Best Picture: “Gone with the Wind,” “The Wizard of Oz” and “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” The film about a love affair between Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler during the American civil war eventually won the coveted prize that year, along with seven other Oscars, including Vivien Leigh for best actress.

Flash-forward 71 years to the 82nd Academy Awards, far short of the drama in 1939, but filled with much spectacle of glitz, glamour and entertainment. Some would argue that perspective however, describing this year’s event as dull and lackluster.

Lots of journalists have covered the dichotomy of the Academy Awards: a serious awards show mixed with Hollywood styled entertainment. The reality is there aren’t always great films nominated. This puts the Board of Governors at a quandary: How to make the show exciting for a TV audience of 40 million viewers?

One solution to this dilemma was to increase best picture nominees to 10 films, up from five in previous years. While this broadens the field and sheds light on more independent, smaller budget films, the expanded list may serve as a detriment, creating a larger pool of so-so films rather than a few really good ones.

Is it working? It’s too early to tell. The new system however opened the doors for “The Hurt Locker” to win best director and best picture, a film not seen by many people and grossed less than $30 million since its release last June. There was some drama however, as Kathryn Bigelow won for best director, the first for a female, beating out her former hubby, “Avatar” director James Cameron.

Aside from a few snafus, the Academy Awards was a success, topping its largest audience in five years, no small feat in a year with very few great films competing. They must be doing something right. And with more people watching, there’s more money for advertisers, which is always a good sign. Whether much of the night is a performance, and all the actors are playing their parts, there are always some instances of true sincerity and unexpected surprises. This is real reason why so many people continue to watch the Academy Awards over the past eight decades, mostly to see what happens next. That’s drama, and that’s Hollywood.