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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm David Greene.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

More and more people are watching TV not just alone or with a few friends, but with lots of friends - on Twitter and Facebook or other social media sites. A new report from the Nielsen Company and the research firm NM Incite shows a sharp rise in Social TV. To talk about this we called Deirdre Bannon, who's vice president of social media solutions at Nielsen.

GREENE: Good to have you on the program.

DEIRDRE BANNON: Thank you for having me.

MONTAGNE: As I've just mentioned, your report shows that 33 percent of Twitter users send tweets while they watch TV. And nearly 45 percent of Americans who use a tablet say they use their device to access social media while watching television. What exactly is going on there?

BANNON: I think what you're seeing is that social media has given a forum for an appetite to engage with a large group of people about what they're watching on television. So in a sense it has become the modern day water cooler. And we really see Twitter as a second screen for social television. We see north of 80 percent of publicly available social media content about TV is occurring on Twitter.

MONTAGNE: So it sounds like you're turning a passive device, the television, which most TVs still are, into an interactive experience.

BANNON: I think that television has always been a social activity where people watch it and engage traditionally with their family. But with these mobile devices and with social media, you can now do those same things but with an exponentially larger group of people.

MONTAGNE: Are people tweeting during programs mostly in those programs that sort of lend themselves to reaction and interaction, snarky comments, that sort of thing?

BANNON: I think there's some of that. People do like to engage around big real-time events, like the political debates, like award shows, like sports. But the people are commenting just about the shows that they like and the shows that they watch anyway, too.

And you see that television networks are responding and recognizing to this as well. And people are really gaining a voice in how they feel about the programming content that they're seeing and having an influence on what they're seeing on the screen.

MONTAGNE: There was also an interesting finding that in Africa and the Middle East 60 percent of people reported that they use social media while they were watching TV.

BANNON: Yeah. So this is definitely a global phenomenon. As you mentioned, you see it in the Middle East and Africa and we see it across Latin America, Asia and Europe as well. I think some of the reason that you see it in emerging regions especially is that mobile is emerging faster in developing regions. So I think you see that increase there.

MONTAGNE: How are TV show responding to the notion that there are viewers out there who are, even as the show is going on, making sort of a group watch, even though they're not in the same room. Are shows responding to that?

BANNON: Yes, they absolutely are. So shows and networks are paying lots of attention to this and have people devoted to understanding what's going on in that engagement factor. They're also incorporating social elements into the shows, such as hashtags. And then possibly curry the shows with those and show those tweets on air, if the show lends itself to that kind of thing. You know, they care about what is being said as well, so that they can then inform future programming content decisions.

And then, you know, that real-time element and the capability of getting to engage with audiences in real time is also really helping to drive live viewing. And also people, I think, are incented now to watch live as well as the Internet field; social media spoilers. So they don't go to Twitter and find out what happened on their show.

For all those reasons, I think there's a real need for industry standard research and metrics to uncover what's going on with social TV and to understand the implications for both the networks, the programmers and advertisers, as well.

MONTAGNE: Well, thank you very much for joining us.

BANNON: Thank you for your time. I really appreciate it.

MONTAGNE: Deirdre Bannon is vice president of social media solutions at Nielsen.

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