The Interactive View: How It Looks Now to Watch TV

In the first decade of the 21st century, behavioral changes accelerated exponentially. Most surprising is that recent studies have shown the incredible speed with which viewers are leaving their seat in front of the TV to adopt new habits.

According to a global study by Accenture, there was a decrease of 13% in the consumption of TV in all age ranges in 2014, while data provided by Nielsen said that between September 2014 and January 2015, there was a drop of 10.6% in viewers 18–34 years old in the U.S.

This does not mean that TVs will no longer be watched or that video consumption has decreased. What has changed is the way we’re doing it. It is not only the device we use or the format in which we see it that is changing. The fact is that we increasingly consume more video content, but not necessarily while sitting in front of the TV.

There is a direct relationship between the size of the screen and the individual or social activity, as well as between the screen size and the amount of content we see. Listening to music or watching funny videos is a solitary activity that tends to be performed on small screens. Large screens are often used for people who gather around to watch in large groups and are willing to spend at least an hour watching.

The latest study by IAB Mexico confirms this hypothesis: 7 out of 10 Internet users prefer watching sports on TV, while 9 out of 10 prefer to see short videos on the Internet. But although we see the content on a small screen in the privacy of our room, more than ever, the concept of being alone has disappeared.

The greatest impact of smartphones and the Internet is that we are always socializing. Either because we see a video and share it or because while we are watching a program, we also participate in a broader conversation that occurs with people we know on Facebook or don’t know on Twitter. It doesn’t matter where in the world they are.


The natural synergy that exists between watching TV and being connected to the Internet is that there are specific terms referring to the type of activity that we do. This is stacking, when we watch TV while we perform Internet activities unrelated to what we are seeing; and meshing, when Internet activity is related to what we see.

A Mexico IAB study tells us that 5 out of 10 Mexican Internet users surf the Internet while watching TV, of which 9 out of 10 are simultaneously on social networks, 2 out of 10 are reading comments about the program, 2 out of 10 are commenting on what they are seeing, and 1 out of 5 are seeking information about what they are seeing. When the programs involve many viewers, the interactions soar.

The Global Conversation

Programs that live stream get us all to tune in at the same time. Even today, we mostly meet around the largest screen we can find. Those are the best examples of how the current viewer watches TV.

The first global digital event of the era of social networks was the World Cup 2014. It was so large that digital social giants were preparing for the global transmission and for an audience eager to interact.

Twitter began premiering new features like timelines of the World Cup or parties and hashtags.

And it worked. During the 2010 World Cup, there were a total of 11 million tweets. During the 2014 World Cup, there were 3,600 tweets per minute recorded with the hashtag #WorldCup and, during the first match alone, there were 12.2 million tweets. The total World Cup score was 672 million tweets and more than 3,000,000 interactions on Facebook.

The Game Off the Court

Every moment of glory or failure, outside or inside the court, was immortalized for a few hours and the brands that participated became stronger players in the global conversation.

Sometimes, success: The account of McDonald’s Uruguay had just 27,000 followers; however, it succeeded thanks to Luis Suarez’s tweet that went around the world, receiving more than 75,000 retweets and over 30,000 favorites. The McDonald’s Uruguay account increased by more than 10% and gained 35,000 followers in just 24 hours.

There are also some failures: The KLM Dutch account had to retract a tweet in which it made reference to the elimination of the Mexican national team in the World Cup. The opportunity was exploited by Aeromexico to support the selection and offended many.

Under Construction

The way to effectively capitalize on stacking and meshing is not precise, as there are no written guidelines or rules set in stone. What is known is that, to reach this new audience, it is necessary to develop cross-media strategies that involve messages that can move across multiple screens and platforms. It is also necessary to have a team well prepared for real-time marketing, able to act in real time and account for unpredictable changes.

Communication strategy, multi-platform approaches and the right equipment are essential, but so is the need to be aware of the metrics that detect small changes in user behavior.

Learning the latest installment of buzz about the Oscars is what Twitter works on through its extensive association with celebrities who are in strong networks. Increasing Facebook interactions show the growing trend among Internet users to become increasing careful about privacy, preferring to keep their conversations among acquaintances private.

In the end, what matters is that we must always keep in mind that digital behavior is a reflection of deeper human behavior.

This new viewer responds to the need we all have to be part of something bigger, to belong to something. The interactive viewer is basically the same as always, but thanks to technology, we never have to go to a game, concert or program alone.