Election leaders debate - a social TV experience

by Abid Warsi on 16 April 2010

Many people in the UK had a social TV experience tonight, watching the leaders debate while also commenting on facebook, twitter and chat rooms. Social TV is slowly getting more popular, especially at big events like this. I had my first social TV experience tonight. I had my laptop open on ITV’s website where there was a live video of the debate, a chat room, a facebook window, a live ‘Worm’ graph and instant polls.

Chat room & facebookfacebook connect chat widget

There was a live ITV chat room where viewers were giving instant reactions. It was interesting to see what other viewers thought of what the leaders said and to see a big range of viewer opinions. It was also good to see that most viewers didn’t stick to part lines and but gave genuine comments, criticising their favourite leader and complimenting the opposition where appropriate.

The ITV website also had a facebook window which showed comments made by facebook users. This had the potential to be more interesting than the public chat room – I was more interested in knowing the opinions of my friends than those of strangers.

However, the facebook window showed comments from any facebook user on the ITV website and any comments from my friends were lost amongst these. I’d have preferred a more personal experience within a smaller social group.


ITV worm chartFor me, the most captivating example of social TV came from the ‘Worm’. ITV added a live graph line, called a ‘Worm’, on top of a live video of the debate. This continuously showed how much a select group of 20 viewers felt positively or negatively towards what the leaders were saying (they were provided a special device to do this).

The ‘Worm’ was the easiest element of social TV to follow. Firstly, I didn’t need to look away from the leaders to know what other viewers thought. Secondly, I could understand how other people felt much faster by looking at the ‘Worm’ line than by reading through comments.

The ‘Worm’ concept could be improved. 20 users is very small sample size and a much larger sample would give a more reliable representation of public feelings. For example, an interface could be built into the website to allow all viewers give their feelings.

Live poll

Finally, ITV took polls on its website throughout the debate and showed the results changing from minute to minute. It was exciting to get an early view of what the major opinion polls would eventually show after the debate. It was also an effective way to get viewers to contribute to the social TV element – it made it very quick and easy to share your opinion.

Overall experience

Taking part in social TV added a new and exciting dimension to the viewing experience. It’ll be interesting to see how social TV develops as an increasing number of people watch TV while also browsing the Internet on their laptops, netbooks, iPads, mobile phones… I’d recommend trying out the social TV experience at the next leaders debate or big sporting event.

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