Twitter to change TV viewing in Turkey

Twitter to change TV viewing in Turkey

EMRAH GÜLER ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Twitter to change TV viewing in Turkey

Some Turkish series provide on-screen hashtags.

You don’t really have to watch TV to know what the parliamentary speaker said about the new charter in a televised live debate or the unexpected twist in a popular TV show. Why would you need a remote control when you have hashtags, live Tweets and trending topics?

As the world of communication disintegrated, and the audience fragmented into millions of individuals with their own personal viewing experiences through multitudes of channels and social media, we were supposed to say goodbye to traditional television programming.

There were podcasts and emerging niche channels, causing a timeshift in the viewing experience as people recorded, downloaded and watched their favorite shows online. Social media promised a personalized experience in information flow, consumption of entertainment, and an interactive, immediate way of communication.

This was bad news for TV channels, whose traditional structure required people to sit down when their favorite programs aired. Viewers had to wait before rushing to the office water coolers to talk about the latest twist in their TV show, or the gaffe made by a celebrity on a talk show.

It became clear that all had changed when Prince William married Kate Middleton last April. The term coined as the “water cooler effect,” which required all viewers to watch a TV program at the time of the broadcast and wait until the next day to discuss the repercussions, dramatically shifted as Twitter hit the World Wide Web.

When #RoyalWedding changed TV viewing
The royal wedding became the event that showed the world that TV viewing had dramatically changed, and perhaps, that its demise was not necessarily imminent. It was the ideal event to have your computer or tablet on your lap, or have your smartphone next to you while you turned on the TV to the most anticipated wedding in modern history.

This was must-see TV, even if it was a bit too long for anyone’s taste or attention span. The royal wedding was the ideal TV event to Tweet or comment on Facebook about gems like Kate’s dress or Princess Beatrice’s hat. Even the most cynical, anti-monarchy social media aficionados had something to Tweet about as the wedding proceeded.

TV channels, on the other hand, found the event to be their ideal chance to integrate social media with event programming. Channels invited people to post comments with hashtags that ranged from the expected (#RoyalWedding) to the original (#RoyalSuccess or #RoyalMess), broadcasting live Tweets and Tweets-per-minute.

Social media howlers were too quick to announce the end of TV. Last year’s MTV Music Awards broke a record, and the 2011 Golden Globes received the highest ratings in a decade. Twitter also released a study recently showing that engagement increases two to 10 times when important TV shows
are on.

Quick to follow the consumption habits and communication models in the West, Turkey didn’t wait long to jump on the bandwagon of integrating social media with TV viewing. Beginning as a random generation of hashtags by users, in the spirit of #Iloveherhair to #Thisshowsucks, and informal set of conversations among communities, TV shows soon began initiating their own on-screen hashtags and encouraged live Tweeting during broadcast of their shows.

Live Tweets, the norm on Turkish TV
A recent article by Aygün Pembecioğlu, on the social media website Bigumigu, gave an account of TV shows in Turkey that have begun providing on-screen hashtags, encouraging viewers to share their Tweets. “Yalan Dünya” (The Fading World), “Babam İçin” (For My Father) and “Seksenler” (Eighties) were some of these series asking viewers to answer questions with hashtags incorporated into their Tweets. “Seksenler,” owing to questions about the Eighties, soon became a trending topic on Twitter during its broadcast. There are also hashtags created randomly by influential names on Twitter that have become trending topics, such as when the journalist and writer Kaan Sezyum began Tweeting his comments on the Radio and Television Supreme Council’s (RTÜK) random banning of certain music videos with the hashtag #rtukbenikorkutuyor (RTÜK scares me).

While TV programs tried to establish a controlled engagement with social media, not everything went as planned, with viewers on Twitter often lashing out on everything from bad writing (“Adını Feriha Koydum” – I Named Her Feriha) to tasteless rape scenes (“Öyle Bir Geçer Zaman Ki” – As Time Goes By). Sometimes viewers deluged Twitter with expressions of huge disappointment (for example in recent debut of “Muck,” the Turkish rip-off of “Glee”).

While some TV programmers may show a progressive approach by integrating social media into their marketing plans, other more conservative ones are well-aware of the power – or danger - of immediate interaction, preferring only to display on-screen email addresses for comments or questions. Most news programs and daytime shows aimed at bored homemakers are some of these.

As TV programmers in Turkey continue to follow emerging trends in the marriage of TV programming and social media, the next step seems to be live commentaries from experts, live questions to names behind the shows, as well as 360-degree live events. We are about to relive the glory days of TV, when nearly 30 million people tuned in to find out who shot JR in a whole electrifying, new way.