In our quest to understand audiences and their behaviours fully, we have come across a lot of research about social media and how people are using it. However, there didn’t really seem to be anything substantial about how consumers are using social media for TV-related purposes. With this study we want to shed some light on this activity.

Our objective was to understand what drives our audiences to social media, but also to see how their social media activity impacts viewing behaviours.

The global study started with an exploration of broad Social Media usage and attitudes amongst millennials in 24 countries. We then followed this up with a more in depth exploration into TV-related social media behaviours in five countries (US, UK, Germany, Brazil and Russia). This involved an in-depth quantitative survey, social media diaries, as well as online communities and also friending/following the participants on Facebook and Twitter to passively observe their behaviour, with their permission of course.

Called “When Networks Network: TV Gets Social,” here are key findings from that analysis:

  • Millennials around the world maintain meaningful connections with friends and family through social media. Today, nearly 8 in 10 have a social networking profile/account across the 24 countries. Facebook is the dominant social network, but there is still a place for local social networks, e.g. VKontakte in Russia and Orkut in Brazil.
  • Social media also enhances viewers’ relationships with TV shows – About 40% of Millennials participate in social media for TV-related reasons.

The in-depth look at our five target countries revealed much more about that relationship:


Viewers engage in an average of 10 TV-related activities on social media platforms on a weekly basis. They are most likely to interact with others about programming and searching for information about shows. Sharing with others and watching video are other frequent activities.

  • In an average week, 72% of Millennials who use social media for TV-related reasons interact with “friends” and other fans, and look at comments others are posting
  • 66% search for information about the show and those involved in it
  • 61% share by recommending to others and posting comments, links, video clips, or photos/images
  • 61% watch full episodes or clips/trailers

Of the countries included in the study, we found that viewers in Brazil embrace TV-related social media activities the most frequently, while those in Germany are the least likely to do so. Millennials in the US, the UK, and Russia fall in between.

Three distinct types of motivations for TV-related social media use emerged: Functional (searching for show schedules, news, exclusives); Communal (personal branding, connecting with others); and Playful (gaming, entering contests).

1. Functional: Information Above All:

Function trumps all other motivating factors, including socializing, when it comes to TV-related social media use. This is true of all the countries in the study, with viewers in Germany leaning the most towards the functional motivations. Viewers are more interested in the experiences and content offered by networks and TV shows than communicating with others on social media. They use social media sites to:

  • stay informed about air dates and times (44%);
  • keep up with the latest show news (45%); and
  • access exclusive show info (37%), video (36%) and plot clues (36%).

Functional motives are stronger for teens and young adults. Viewers 13-17 are most likely to use social media to search for show schedules and exclusive videos, while those between the ages of 18 and 24 are most likely to search for the latest show news and to access spoilers.

2. Communal: The Value of a Facebook ‘Like’ or a Twitter ‘Follower’

Communal factors are the second most common reason for engaging in TV-related social media use. Viewers reported using social media to brand themselves and share taste (34%); to connect with the show (28%); and to connect with other fans (28%).

One way viewers satisfy their Communal motivation is by “liking” a show on Facebook or “following” on Twitter. Viacom’s research has uncovered the long-questioned value of such Facebook “likes” or Twitter “follows” when it comes to TV. After “liking” or “following” a show, viewers were a full 75% more likely to watch that show. Viewers also watch more in an average of three different ways (live, stream, reruns), and engage more with TV shows and channels on digital platforms:

  • 41% access its social media more
  • 39% visit show/channel site more often
  • 27% are more likely download related apps

3. Playful: Social TV Games Matter

Third, playful experiences drive TV-related social media activities, including playing for rewards (24% to get freebies or enter contests) or playing games (25% games; 24% quizzes/polls).

  • Over 30 percent play TV show-related social media games on a weekly basis.
  • Of the social gamers who watch a TV show and play the related game, about 75% play off-season.
  • TV-related gaming is a persistent touch-point and a way to connect year-round with viewers.

Social media games help drive viewership, with around 30% of respondents having gamed before ever watching a show. About half reported watching a show more due to the show’s social media game. Game shows, comedy and reality shows come in as the top genres for gaming.

Social media is an important means of discovering new TV shows and social media-fueled show discovery positively impacts live tune-in. Viewers are significantly more likely to watch a show premiere on live TV when that show is discovered via social media.

  • Social media ranked third (39%) as a source of show discovery, behind TV promos (54%) and word of mouth (50%).
  • The exception is Brazil, where social media ranked even higher as a source of show discovery, 2nd only to TV promos.
  • Seventy percent are likely to watch the live debut of a show that was discovered on social media, versus 48% live if it was discovered elsewhere.

Drivers of live tune-in from social media include a Facebook friend’s comment, a show’s post, or a friend “liking” the show.

Our US domestic colleagues also blogged about the study here.

Vishalen Ungapen is Senior Manager, Digital Media Research at Viacom International Media Networks.