The next stage of social TV is here. Drawing on promotional discourses, I argue that Facebook and Twitter’s shift from distributors of television network programming to their own original content is a natural extension of industry practice, but not a particularly meaningful development for fan participation and engagement. (…)

Original content strategies, backed by years of information about user habits and tastes, could expand Facebook’s already-massive advertising generating machinery, finally give Twitter a path toward profitability, and further diversify their respective brands. The move also enables both companies to inch away from the fallout of the 2016 US presidential election, where they took—and continue to take—significant criticism for their role in the proliferation of harassment, hate speech, and fake news. Finally, the push toward original content will allow Facebook and Twitter to promote what one industry analyst proudly called “ambient digital video,” a phrase that recalls ambient media and advertising’s creeping encroachment into everyday spaces (Grainge 2008; Moor 2003).

If the first generation of social TV products are any indication, Facebook and Twitter’s originals will try to limit any fan conversation or activity that doesn’t further the above end goals. For all the discourse about disruption and fan-driven community, both Hollywood and Silicon Valley continue to hold traditional views on engagement and participation.

Barker, Cory. 2018. “Facebook, Twitter, and the Pivot to Original Content: From Social TV to TV on Social.” In “Social TV Fandom and the Media Industries,” edited by Myles McNutt, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 26.
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