TV’s Virtual Water Cooler Effect
16 May 2019 • tvsquared
Marlessa Stivala,
Content Marketing Manager

We all know the media landscape is continually evolving and innovating in ways that can be exciting, confusing and even aggravating. New theories emerge all the time regarding what to make out of fragmentation, streaming services and everything in between. Still, even with all the predictions about the industry’s future, there remains a sense of longing for aspects of its past.

For those who grew up watching classics such as “M*A*S*H” and “Seinfeld,” this longing tends to center around missing TV’s “good ole days” – back when it seemed like most of the population was watching the same program at any given time.

Not too long ago, a select few shows typically dominated people’s daily “water cooler chats” during work hours. It’s fun to recall the excitement of these discussions, such as ones the day after any number of the cliffhangers from series like “Lost” or “Friends” first aired.

With so many people eager to discuss the same key plotl ines or wary of certain spoilers if they, by chance, missed watching a show live (I’m not alone in both sending and receiving texts warning others to not dare spoil the latest “Breaking Bad,” right?) proves why TV watching is so inherently communal and such a popular pastime.

But is this sense of community surrounding TV truly lost? Far from it! Like the industry itself, it’s simply evolved.

TV Has Gotten Social

Social media’s influence is certainly not news, but many tend to underestimate how integral it’s been to the modern TV viewing experience.

As any “Game of Thrones” fan (myself included) knows, there are still shows that can unite a majority of the population. And excitedly discussing a popular show’s latest episode with family, friends and co-workers obviously hasn’t gone anywhere.

Still, social media outlets (especially Twitter) have become central to how millions watch TV. In a previous blog post, I discussed how TV still accounts for how the majority of people watch content, and a large number within this majority watch with a second-screen device nearby.

Fans of shows that span multiple genres, including “90 Day Fiancé,” “This Is Us” and “Jane the Virgin,” regularly live-tweet new episodes – celebrating when a show’s character or popular hashtag trends and reveling in the community of people who share their interest.

If you love TV like I do, you probably watch a wide range of shows, old and new alike, and find that there doesn’t always seem like enough people in your day-to-day life enjoy the same ones.

In this way, discussing a beloved series on social media can be cathartic. Fans worldwide also feel like they have a voice in guiding their favorite shows’ fates when a trending hashtag coincides with a beloved show’s renewal or revival post-cancellation. While there’s obviously much more going on behind the scenes of these decisions, it can be an empowering feeling nonetheless.

As I like to say, Twitter has essentially become the virtual water cooler for TV fans.

Power of Fandom

As illustrated above, those who regularly live-tweet programs are highly engaged in what they’re watching. They’re dedicated viewers and brand loyal – it’s just that the “brand” in question here is a specific network, franchise or program.

Still, advertisers would do well to tap in to such passionate, loyal viewers. This is why TV ads that feature a social-media-related “calls to action” can be so effective. It’s meeting viewers where they are or, in this case, meeting them at the virtual water cooler.