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Initial insights from Pact/Royal Holloway, University of London social media survey

We were delighted to have 180 responses from TV companies across the UK and Republic of Ireland to our first survey looking into the impact of social media on TV production. Respondents ranged from micro businesses to superindies, and encompassed those working in a wide range of production genres.

The survey was the first of two to be conducted for The Adapt Social Media Project, part of a wider European Research Council funded project researching the history of television production technologies from the 1960s to the present day led by Professor John Ellis. The social media element is being run by Dr Niki Strange and Professor James Bennett.

The survey, which Pact is partnering on will be repeated in September 2017 to track developments and identify trends, and its findings will be supplemented by focus groups with key television industry figures.

Some key initial findings from this first survey include:

Social media has led to new revenue streams for a quarter of respondents
A quarter of total respondents said that Social Media has led to new revenue streams for their company, with YouTube ad revenue being the most cited. Other sources included merchandising sales from Facebook, show-related apps, social media data leading to publishing deals and brand extensions and digital commissions.  However the vast majority of the companies benefitting from these new revenue streams were medium to large companies (50 employees or more).

Just over half of respondents felt formal 'social media for TV' training needed
Just over half of all respondents indicated that employees had either attended short courses or had experienced ‘on the job’ training.  Nearly half of all respondent companies stated that no one at the company had any social media training whatsoever with less than 10% holding a relevant degree.  As a result, 51% thought  that formal ‘social media for TV ’ training was needed, particularly around production of assets, managing digital engagement campaigns around TV, branding, organic vs paid social media, and dashboards/analytics analysis. Given that 33% also had experienced ethical and compliance issues around social media for TV, training in that area could be welcome too.

How social media is resourced and managed
In the majority of cases, both programme-related and general company social media is funded from company overheads, with broadcasters representing the least likely source of funds for social media activity. This applied across the board to micro businesses, SMEs and large companies. However there was a contrast between large and small businesses in terms of who undertook social media activities.   Companies of 50 employees or more tend to have dedicated social media managers undertaking company and production specific social media work. SMEs and micro businesses tend to entrust production-related social media work to junior staff members first and foremost, with company owners taking the lead on social media work related to the company and its promotions more generally. Producer/Directors also often play a significant role in social media activation for TV shows but less so for company social media work.

Significant contrast in social media platform usage according to genre
The respondents were given a range of platforms and asked to choose the ones they used most frequently for general company and for TV specific social media work.  In both areas, Twitter was used, on average, marginally more frequently than Facebook, with YouTube, Vimeo and Instagram ranking as being used regularly. Snapchat, Periscope and Vine tend to be used less frequently and when they are, its for TV related social media work rather than general company promotions.  There was a significant contrast in platform usage according to genre, with Instagram and Snapchat favoured on drama productions over factual, and Facebook used most often on entertainment shows. Repeating the survey in 2017 will enable the research team to further track indicative usage of platforms across a specific time period.


Thank you to all the respondents who took the time to complete the survey.

To find out more about the Adapt TV History Research Project being conducted by RHUL, click here.