Social Media Project

Social Media as Television Production Technology

Prof. James Bennett and Dr Niki Strange

The ADAPT Social Media project’s remit was to study a ‘live production’ issue faced by the TV industry in the UK. Our aim was to produce an understanding of social media as a technology that not only enters the technological array of television production as an external force of creative disruption, but also extends our understanding of ‘production technologies’ to incorporate social media platforms as non-hardware, non-site specific production tools.

In so doing we hoped to capture the emergence of a new field of ‘social television’ production. We investigated four inter-related questions:

  1. How does social media operate as a technology in contemporary UK television production and how does it fit into the array of technologies used?
  2. Has social media moved from innovation to routine use? How has this change taken place?
  3. How does the deployment of social media affect production roles, skills and training?
  4. How does social media affect the work lives of those in contemporary UK television production?

The project was informed by two major surveys of Pact members carried out in 2016 and 2017. Completed by TV indies, the surveys found that social media is regarded as ‘the most significant technical and creative innovation challenge for television producers in the near future’.

The ADAPT social media research team also carried out 57 one-to-one interviews and a focus group with industry figures from broadcasters, indies, social media agencies and platforms along with three ethnographic observations of live production teams working on productions for BBC One, ITV and Channel 4.

The project produced the industry report Adapting to Social Media: Commerce, Creativity and Competition in UK TV Production, featuring findings and recommendations from the research project, which launched at an briefing event in London in May 2018. The report looks at social media’s impact on TV models and revenues, explores new creative approaches, considers changing job roles and training and assesses social platforms’ growing roles as collaborators, commissioners and competitors in an era of Social Television.

Published academic outputs include:

  • Bennett, J. and Strange, N. (2018). “Twitter: Channels in the Stream”. In: D. Johnson, ed., From Networks to Netflix: A Guide to Changing Channels. New York, London: Routledge and Bennett, J. (2018).
  • Bennett, J. (2018). “Public Service Algorithms”. In: D. Freedman and V. Goblot, eds., A Future for Public Service Television. London: Goldsmiths Press.

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