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Social TV - Multi-Screen Content and Ephemeral Culture

Social TV

Multi-Screen Content and Ephemeral Culture

By Cory Barker
Hardcover : 9781496840929, 274 pages, 14 b&w illustrations, June 2022
Paperback : 9781496840936, 274 pages, 14 b&w illustrations, June 2022

An engaging study that tracks the rise and fall of television’s attempts to capture viewer attention on multiple screens


Winner of the 2023 SCMS Media Industries Scholarly Interest Group Outstanding Book Award sponsored by the Center for Entertainment & Media Industries

On March 15, 2011, Donald Trump changed television forever. The Comedy Central Roast of Trump was the first major live broadcast to place a hashtag in the corner of the screen to encourage real-time reactions on Twitter, generating more than 25,000 tweets and making the broadcast the most-watched Roast in Comedy Central history. The #trumproast initiative personified the media and tech industries’ utopian vision for a multi-screen and communal live TV experience.

In Social TV: Multi-Screen Content and Ephemeral Culture, author Cory Barker reveals how the US television industry promised—but failed to deliver—a social media revolution in the 2010s to combat the imminent threat of on-demand streaming video. Barker examines the rise and fall of Social TV across press coverage, corporate documents, and an array of digital ephemera. He demonstrates that, despite the talk of disruption, the movement merely aimed to exploit social media to reinforce the value of live TV in the modern attention economy. Case studies from broadcast networks to tech start-ups uncover a persistent focus on community that aimed to monetize consumer behavior in a transitionary industry period.

To trace these unfulfilled promises and flopped ideas, Barker draws upon a unique mix of personal Social TV experiences and curated archives of material that were intentionally marginalized amid pivots to the next big thing. Yet in placing this now-forgotten material in recent historical context, Social TV shows how the era altered how the industry pursues audiences. Multi-screen campaigns have shifted away from a focus on live TV and toward all-day “content” streams. The legacy of Social TV, then, is the further embedding of media and promotional material onto every screen and into every moment of life.


"An especially timely volume, Social TV is an impressive study of the Social TV archive for several key case studies, each of which speak to different subsectors of Social TV, while commenting on the broader cultural and industrial ramifications of social media engagement. Social TV offers readers a rich archive through which to examine shifts in the TV industry. "

- Jennifer Gillan, author of Television Brandcasting: The Return of the Content-Promotion Hybrid

"Barker’s meticulously researched ‘ephemeral historiography’ of the rise and fall of Social TV offers fresh insights into some of this moment's more notable experiments, from ABC’s #TGIT to AMC’s Story Sync. Vitally, it also excavates under-theorized industrial experiments to gauge and reward fan participation from this era, from check-in platforms’ efforts to gamify television viewing to Amazon’s experiments with ‘fansourcing’ feedback on their television pilots. The result is a comprehensive and compelling account of the television industry’s attempt to embrace emergent platforms, while managing audience engagement on their terms."

- Suzanne Scott, author of Fake Geek Girls: Fandom, Gender, and the Convergence Culture Industry

"Social TV advances our understanding of media industry practices of managing audiences and fans by taking a deep dive into television. Drawing on varied case studies, it builds from existing work on how media companies recruit fanlike behavior to trace out tensions between wanting passive consumers and active promoters, the intermingling of organic and artificial audience behavior, and the interplay of old and new media. By interrogating exactly how, when, and why audience activity is valuable to industry in the context of television, Social TV will be valuable to a wide variety of scholars across fan/audience and media industry studies."

- Mel Stanfill, author of Exploiting Fandom: How the Media Industry Seeks to Manipulate Fans and A Portrait of the Auteur as Fanboy: The Construction of Authorship in Transmedia Franchises

"Social TV was the future, until it wasn’t. Cory Barker’s Social TV: Multi-Screen Content and Ephemeral Culture deftly explores the ‘historical micro-moment’ when television and social media promised tangible revolution in viewing audiences. Through numerous and compelling case studies, including HBO’s collaboration with Twitter, Amazon Studio’s use of fansourcing, AMC’s Story Sync, and ABC’s live-tweeting campaigns, Barker expertly defines the tensions, promises, failures, and repercussions of the moment when a social television revolution fizzled out. Social TV asks us to imagine a truly immersive viewing environment—and redefine what it means to be social in the age of ubiquitous content. A must-read for television and social media enthusiasts alike."

- Paul Booth, professor of communication at DePaul University and author of Digital Fandom: New Media Studies and Playing Fans: Negotiating Fandom and Media in the Digital Age

"Barker has written a book about the intersection of television and social media that feels timely but also provides a historical perspective on media industry practices in the 2010s. . . . Each case is well-researched and deftly situated in other television scholarship."

- S. Pepper, CHOICE

"This work is a solid piece of scholarship on an unusual phase in television history."


"Although histories of media industries often retrospectively look linear and straightforward, Social TV not only reminds scholars that the development of media industries is complicated and awash with failed experiments but also showcases how industry successes are often built on industry failures…. Many other areas of focus within media studies could draw on Barker’s approach to better map the ways ongoing practices emerged from specific historical and industrial contexts that included both successes and failures. This will lead to not only a more thorough and encompassing history of media industries but also a better lens through which to view the present."

- Ryan Stoldt, Media Industries