Even in the digital age, television is a medium that’s starved for real-time data.
That’s why video platforms like Twitch and YouTube are thriving and broadcast television will be doomed TV if executives don’t wise up, according to one incredibly popular YouTube personality.
Most TV viewer information comes from the Nielsen ratings, a sampling system that has been criticised for not keeping tabs on all the new ways people watch TV. Broadcasters also use Facebook and Twitter to measure reactions and “buzz” about TV shows. The two methods form an imperfect way to understand what audiences are trying to tell content creators.
“It’s embarrassing the data that television has to work with. What are the Nielsen ratings? What do they even mean? It’s obfuscatory,” YouTube and Twitch star Sean Plott told Business Insider.
Plott has more tools at his disposal because he produces his hit daily gaming show on YouTube and Twitch, the video platform for gamers. He uses these real-time tools to respond to his audience and incorporate their feedback into his show.
Here’s how it works.
Plott broadcasts the Day  Daily live on Twitch. On the show, Plott breaks down the complicated strategies behind his favourite games, such as StarCraft II, Hearthstone, and Counterstrike. While viewers come for the strategy, they stick around for Plott’s enthusiastic, funny, and improvisational style.
The show isn’t scripted, but Plott keeps a general outline of the specific games and strategies he wants to talk about in each show.
What differentiates his show from television or film, however, is that on Twitch, there is a chat component live at all times. While the show is happening, Plott monitors audience reactions, answers viewer questions, calls out particular members of his community, and adjusts the show to appeal to their interests.
“If the discussion [in the chat] is about the game, then that means you are doing something right. If they are complaining and calling things stupid, it’s an immediate signal that they aren’t that interested in the content,” Plott said.
Even more important than the chat component is the abundance of data available after a show. Each day, Plott analyses his performance and reviews data to check in with viewer numbers, engagement, and interaction.
“When I broadcast my show on YouTube, I can get a graph of exactly when people are tuning into the video and when people are tuning out,” Plott said.
Plott then uses that information to make adjustments for the next show. For example, Plott used to start his shows with a relatively long story about his life before he got to the meat of his show — discussion of different game strategies.
Using analytics, Plott noticed viewers often skipped the intro to get to the game content, and that they usually did this when the intros ran longer than seven minutes. He listened to his viewers and started shortening his intros.
“I can say definitively, with data, that if I have a three-minute intro, people will not skip ahead. If I have an introduction that is three to five minutes, it better be a damn good story,” Plott explained. And I’ve learned that I can’t do introductions that are seven to 10 minutes long. People will skip. You have none of that [data] in broadcast television. You have none of that data and I don’t know why. It’s archaic.”
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