Oscars, live events, illustrate why sports broadcasts have most to gain from social media

Once again, the conversation on Twitter is dominated by a single item. Even if it isn't even completely true, social media and Twitter in particular can make one feel like everyone else is doing the same thing they are. But isn't that the point of social media, to find, network and converse with people who share similar interests? That is never more obvious than with an instance like The Oscars. Or, well, the Super Bowl.

In a story I've been meaning to highlight for sometime, and couldn't agree with more, The New York Times points out that it appears as though social media has created a virtual live 'water cooler' for major televised events and have a major impact on television ratings.

The Nielsen Company, which measures television viewership and Web traffic, noticed this month that one in seven people who were watching the Super Bowl and the Olympics opening ceremony were surfing the Web at the same time.

“The Internet is our friend, not our enemy,” said Leslie Moonves, chief executive of the CBS Corporation, which broadcast both the Super Bowl and the Grammy Awards this year. “People want to be attached to each other.”

This is something I've been trying to harp on for some time, going back to the NBA's rise in ratings. Of course, it could have something to do with the fact that my timeline is dominated by snarky sports bloggers and sarcastic beat writers. A look-in:

Significantly better than the show alone. But more important: significantly more watchable. Almost everyone prefers watching shows with company or, a more applicable analogy: watching sports and a sports bar.

What is lost with beer, wings (still possible) and real people is made up with a much greater amount of virtual commentators and the ability to read the thoughts of those who cover the sport or play it professionally. Also, with sports, there's more significant events, events where the viewers are already used to people analyzing what's taking place. Not quite the same for a sitcom or major dramatic series.

Now, how could this be monetized? It isn't simple. But the possibility exists where a sponsor could hand select a group of writers and display them in a way that makes it easier for non-Twitter-users to see them, possibly on a page running ads. Not entirely difficult to do. Newspapers (or newspaper companies owning multiple papers) could require that their writers comment on major events and then, along with running a page serving ads, have their writers run a limited amount of sponsored tweets. Possibly not in the best taste but still doable.

Even before that, sponsors need to encourage viewers to take a look at social media. It's becoming more and more apparent that those participating in live discussion via social media are more likely to watch an event.  This is without any incentive from marketers or television networks. There's money to be made here, whether it's by boosting television ratings further—via a call-to-action from the broadcast itself or commercials being shown during the event—or using ad revenue to capitalize on on the existing discussion.

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