ABC to use social media to increase ratings for Academy Awards telecast

It’s long been known that TV and social media are complementary technologies that serve each other well. On Sunday, ABC will try to take advantage of this convergence with its live HD broadcast of the Academy Awards on Sunday.

Exploiting the fact that many younger viewers are known multitaskers, ABC has built a companion to the TV screen: an Academy Awards website with behind-the-scenes video streams. Made to work together, users will be able to see Oscar winners accepting an award on their TV set, and then see them celebrating backstage on their computer screen.

ABC’s experiment has become a priority among TV networks as Facebook, Twitter and other online chat services increasingly serve as community gathering places that can drive online users to TV programs.

A recent study by Deloitte of 2000 American consumers ages 14 to 75 found that 42 percent sometimes surfed the Internet while watching TV, and 26 percent sometimes sent instant messages or texts.

Ian Schafer, the chief executive of the digital agency Deep Focus, told The New York Times that Twitter and Facebook messages about TV programs may well be “the most efficient way to drive tune-in.” Schafer said he observes it when a news segment catches his attention or a basketball game is in overtime.

“I’ll say on Twitter or Facebook, ‘You have got to tune into ‘Nightline’ or ‘60 Minutes’ right now,’ and then I’ll get people saying, ‘Oh, thanks for alerting me,’ ” he said.

Another example happened about a week ago when radio host Howard Stern announced on his Twitter feed information about the reairing of his movie “Private Parts.” Suddenly, many switched over to HBO2 to see the movie.

“In a sense, you are in the living room, watching together,” said Jeff Probst, the host of CBS’ “Survivor,” who used Twitter to talk with fans during the show’s recent season premiere while flying from New York to Los Angeles. Probst told the newspaper he plans to make such a “conversation” a weekly habit this season.

“We know people are multitasking while they’re watching TV,” said Albert Cheng, the executive vice president for digital media for the Disney/ABC Television Group, which oversees ABC. “The question is, how do we tap into that and create a whole different consumer experience?”

“We don’t have all the answers,” he told the newspaper, “but we are definitely trying different things and seeing how people are reacting.”