Viewers and Users, One and the Same?

Traditionally, TV executives have used focus groups and formal polls to determine what their audience is looking for. Yet recently there has been a new online push which changes how TV companies have looked to reach out to their audience. Fox has recently announced a partnering with online social community Passenger as a way to reach out to get better audience feedback from dedicated viewers. The goal of this community is to help better understand how viewers feel about programming (new and old), get marketing ideas as well as plot input, develop a campaign which uses community comments, and research customer TV vs. online viewing habits. This is the next step in FOXs broader initiative to build a deeper engagement with its customers, said Melva Benoit, FOXs senior vice president, audience intelligence and research strategy. It keeps us on top of viewer interests and helps keep our programming on the cutting edge of network television.” Passenger allows Fox to look at what people are saying based on their demographic as well as interests (information given when the user firsts signs up for the site) making them better able to create appropriate programing and marketing campaigns.

But Fox isn't the only company jumping on the online bandwagon. CBS, CNN, the CW and ABC have also been increasing their online presence. CNN has created a community which allows users to create their own iReports. This gives viewers an opportunity to share what they believe is important news as well as give eye-witness testimony to what they have seen. ABC has recently relaunched a site similar to what fox has, and CBS is planning on following with a community along the same lines as well. The CW network has created widgets for social networking sites which are customized based on the show and the viewer.

This outreach of networks to their audiences through online media is indicative of where the field is going. With more and more people catching the latest episode of their favorite show online, networks are looking to integrate their presence and synchronize their goals both online and on TV.