Audience participation is undoubtedly one of the most exciting aspects of live television. From the early days of game shows to new interactive experiences on platforms like Facebook and Snapchat – one constant remains –  audiences are always eager to take part in the conversation, influence and interact with their favorite content.

As dated as it may seem now, toll free phone voting and text voting proved to be a huge milestone for television interactivity. In the US, the launch of American Idol created the first mass-scale competition show that allowed at home audiences to directly impact the outcome of the broadcast. In the first few seasons of Idol, the show saw engagement like never before. In April 2003, Idol received more than 2.5 million text messages, including polls, sweepstakes entries, trivia and votes (1). What’s even more impressive is that 22% of at home audiences said they first learned to text by voting for their favorite Idol contestant (2).

In fact, we still have numerous shows that still employ standard rate text voting to great success. For example, we recently launched Top Chef Facebook and text voting.

The success of American Idol paved the way for numerous competition and interactive shows across the US and globally. From Dancing with The Stars to America’s Got Talent, nearly every network had its own interpretation of an interactive vote format. However, as time went on and social media’s prevalence continued to grow, it became clear that viewer behavior was changing. Social media platforms offered both a challenge and a new opportunity to engage fans and audiences.

Voting has always been free in the U.S., and as a result, we’ve had the opportunity to continually innovate with technology to meet the ever-changing needs of viewers as they’ve migrated to new platforms. Our interactive solutions have evolved over the years to drive maximum participation and social reach by building cross platform verified solutions for online, mobile, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Messenger…

For most countries voting has always been a revenue stream driven by consumer payments through telephony. But there’s now a conscious shift to changing these traditional voting methods and moving away from the original pay-to-play voting experiences. The reason? The traditional approach is limiting to both the audience and the TV show. The solution? Make the experience as accessible as possible and free for the user. By removing premium rate and creating more digital and social applications, voting shows will be able to better meet what their viewers want, bring vital viral marketing support to push eyeballs to the broadcast, and use this new inventory to attract sponsors and advertisers.

For example, on this past season of Asia’s Got Talent we launched voting on Facebook Messenger and hashtag to create a more social and real-time experience for fans.

Working with Facebook, we customized our Messenger Bot and Hashtag vote applications to deliver a highly intuitive and mobile friendly experience during the live shows. The Messenger Bot supported 6 languages, included strict requirements, geo-access and audited results.

To learn more about this campaign, click here.

The global reach and simplicity of the viewer interactivity, combined with a cost-effective solution, highlights the value of engaging audiences through innovative social voting experiences. It also proves that when the premium component is removed – you immediately open your content up to increased reach and engagement.

The element of real-time is another major driver of engagement. If you look at the recent success of HQ as an example – a key part of the attraction for fans is the ability to interact in real-time and receive instant feedback. The potential to win something at the end of it also helps!

While technology continues to evolve, there is no doubt that more seamless and cost-effective solutions will be vital to the success of driving engagement on live television – and that what we understand as “live television” will no longer just be about that big screen in the living room. With our years of experience, we understand both what motivates viewers to participate, which platforms works best for different content, as well as complexities around competition rules and best practices for promotion that can impact the success of your campaign.

If you’re looking at ways to ramp up interactivity within your show, Telescope has a solution for you and would love to talk to you.

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