Back in the 80's and 90's, my Dad was really into Twin Peaks. He used to tell me how after episodes would air the buzz about what had happened the night before would spread all throughout work, school, the town, etc. The question of "who killed Laura Palmer?" was on everyone's mind and after every episode. The "water cooler talk" we kids have always heard about, that actually happened.
Now, 20 years later, the questions are more along the lines of "Are they gonna kill Tyrion?" or "Who's 'A?'" or "Who's gonna win The Voice this season?" or whatever else is on the minds of TV consuming 18-34 year olds. And now the "water cooler" is Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, etc. The same conversations are still happening, just through a different medium. This phenomenon has completely changed the way TV creators and exec's shape their content and how we as audience members experience it.
After reading through the articles, it's pretty evident how much the TV landscape as changed in the past 10 years. Back in the mid 2000's, we were in a pretty drastic technological transition period that TV was trying to keep up with. Sometime around 07-09, Twitter and Facebook hit the mainstream and networks began to get a sense of how to use those social media websites, among others, as resources rather than confusing hinderances.
Originally, to judge the reception of a TV show, all TV networks had to go off of was Nielsen ratings while the show was airing. Now, they can measure tons of different things: traction on social media, different types and amounts of hashtags, how many people watched the show on-demand/online/reruns, etc. This has opened up the possibility for shows with low ratings yet strong cult followings to be recognized. It has also given the networks more opportunity for improvement and examination regarding many different facts and stats about each of their shows.
Before all of this, each of the networks had pretty similar approaches to the creation and distribution of their content. Now, each network has their own strategy regarding social media and how they choose to integrate it into their content. Some networks create 2-10 hashtags per episodes, some promote the show's hosts/judges/stars using Twitter or Facebook, some just let the fans do all the work. If you look back 10 years, networks showed significantly less interest in how the internet could enhance their process. Now, every network has their own social media division.
Most of all, what this new surge of technology and its new integration into mainstream entertainment, specifically TV, has done, is provide an interactive element to the viewing of our favorite shows. Before, I'd have to wait to talk about the latest Game of Thrones plot twist until I see a friend of mine who is also caught up with the show. Now, I can hop on Twitter right as the action has happening and experience new reactions by the second. This kind of social interaction regarding content has never been possible before and now that the networks have fully embraced Twitter, Facebook, etc., the way we experience entertainment has been changed forever.
However, while this new form of interaction has been great, it does come with some issues... Now that audience members can react to content literally as it's happening. We are the running the risk of ruining the experience for ourselves and/or spoiling it for others. While watching a show, we used to only focus on the content. Now, we have to focus on the content and what our reactions are going to be to that content. Rather than getting sucked into the story or the characters, we are getting sucked into reacting in the smartest, funniest ways at the exact right time. Some say this is ruining the way we are experiencing the content, others say it only adds to the experience.
Another way all of this tweeting and posting could be harmful, is if someone who is also a fan of one of your favorite shows, sees a spoiler you posted in real time as you were reacting to the show. Now that the "Spoiler Alert" epidemic has been made aware of, there's less of it going on, but it definitely makes things more difficult for an audience members who wishes to rant about a new plot point or a viewer who'd like to see reviews of the most recent episode rather than spoiler-filled reactions.
With any great thing, there are issues, but these can be solved. We choose who we follow, we can filter the tweets we see, we can avoid social media all together. Overall, this new technological development is revolutionizing the way networks handle their content and the way we as audience members choose to view it.