Still, they just seem wrong -- especially the part-of-a-plan folks.
Here’s the situation: With social media more pervasive every day, it’s surprising that every live sporting event on TV does not include some overt encouragement for viewers to connect by social media.
While only a small percentage of people are actually active on Facebook and Twitter, many do react and watch games as part of a “second-screen experience,” meaning they have a smartphone in hand or are not far from a computer while watching. They might even be streaming the game online.
Despite that, few TV sports types feel the need to keep handles or hashtags on screen throughout a broadcast.
“We always want to have a second-screen experience. Facebook and Twitter are high-traffic places for live events, and we try to be in front of the conversation,” said Josh Baird, director of social media for Fox Sports. He adds a caveat, though. “The assumption that there is a huge overlap that are watching TV and the people on social channels is a bold one.”
Fox Sports concluded high-profile coverage of the U.S. Open and Women’s World Cup in recent weeks. Neither set of broadcasts included overt or regular on-screen social media signals. That’s just the usual plan for Fox Sports. Broadcasts exist as broadcasts, and social media is separate.
To its credit, ESPN takes a slightly more aggressive approach.
Dave Miller, a senior coordinating producer for remote production at ESPN, said his network consistently tries to brand shows or a series on social media. In addition, something like #PSUvsOSU is not unusual for a big game.
Like Baird, Miller framed social media as a complementary place for conversation. He said it can be a challenge for broadcasters to take part in that conversation. Still, ESPN boasts 19.9 million Twitter followers to 1.28 million for Fox Sports, and the approach to share on-screen handles and hastags could be at least a small part of that huge disparity.
It just seems wise to embrace on-screen social media signals, at least as a strong hint about where people should go to conduct their conversations. Miller said broadcast partners (a league or organization) often ask about finding a way to incorporate social media.
And making social media work with a live broadcast is not impossible. ESPN often rotates game locations, broadcaster names and social media in graphics, Miller said. Beyond that, a more engaged approach has been proven to work well, too.
Root Sports has shown that with its Pittsburgh Pirates coverage. Yes, baseball’s slower tempo allows for easier interaction, but Root’s use of #BucsBooth to encourage viewers to ask questions of broadcasters during a game works.
It’s one more thing for someone to do -- after all someone has to weed through individual tweets to see if a good question exits -- but it does unearth some gems, inform some conversation and, at the same time, provide a community, of sorts, for those invested in the game.
In that way, it seems like the people are embracing an opportunity. They’re correct to do so.