Our Smartphones Are Making Live TV Better Than Ever

As the smartphone becomes the first screen, it’s bringing us closer together

Original article found here

The history of the Internet is one of lonely ­people trying to find one another. Consider: Compu­Serve, AOL, MySpace, ­Google, Facebook, Twitter, Whats­App. Ultimately, they’re all about communicating with others. We look into a glowing screen and see something human. But the best of these services let something human look back at us. And when technology just melts away, it almost feels like we’re not alone.

The Internet has gotten better and better at letting us talk to one another. I can pick up my phone, start a conversation with a friend in Europe and another in Asia, and watch as they both type replies. It’s as if I’m seeing their thoughts form. I can share something—on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram—about what I’m currently experiencing and immediately hear from others experiencing the same thing.

This instant Internet, ubiquitous and pushed to our smartphones, lets us experience events not only as they happen but together—even when we are physically apart. It’s not watching something at the same time as someone else; it’s watching it with them. We’re not just broadcasting anymore; we’re ­conversation-­casting.

Television has talked to us for decades, but it never listened. While we all watched events like the moon landing at the same time, we did so in pockets of isolation. This is why the so-called second screen has triumphed over the first. It’s why “second screen” is such a colossal misnomer; the phone is the first screen—always with us and always on. And it has made our big screens more vital. By combining the two, we connected ourselves.

Thanks to this, live TV has never been better. The ability to comment immediately and have anyone respond has given live television a power-up; it has provided motivation to tune in to things we might otherwise skip or TiVo. Because a show isn’t just something to watch anymore—it’s a way to connect.

This should scare the hairpiece off any TV exec mulling a tape delay. Take the Grammys, which were televised separately on the East and West Coasts. By the time the show aired in California, it felt like a nonevent. Search Twitter analytics service Topsy for the term “grammys” or “­#grammys” and you’ll find 4 million tweets while the show was live … and 470,000 during the recorded broadcast.

During the Sochi Olympics, peak tweet volume hit during a live hockey shoot-out that pitted the US against Russia. Both countries were tuning in and cheering through their devices, despite a massive time-zone discrepancy. And this year’s Oscars were the most-watched in 14 years, even with our DVRs and other entertainment options. Maybe we just wanted to talk.

This global ­conversation-cast is transcending TV too. Breaking stories roll out across social networks, generating similar chatter. It can be a global story like a new pope or a local one like a fire or storm, Instagram photos of a concert or Snapchats of a party.

Today the conversation is the event: The highlight of the show is what happens simultaneously on another screen. It’s experiential synchronicity. It’s why and how Ellen DeGeneres could post a photo that became the most retweeted thing ever. We broke that record. We were part of the Oscars.

That used to be the toughest ticket in town, but now everybody’s there. Let’s go again next year.

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