In Kenya, television - like the radio before it - is a social activity. Whether it is debating politics with those next to you, or taking in commentary, the conversation is becoming more interactive by the day. Texting, tweeting and calling friends are now the stand-out ways that people participate in watching television.

Kenya has seen 2013 out with some highlights in social media driven television or social TV. Whether or not local television shows were designed with the backchannel in mind, Kenyan reality dating show Tujuane stands out as having one of the most loyal and viral followings of any television series.

This is not to say the traditional ratings for television media are in any way inaccurate, but in terms of Twitter engagement the show has brought a level of consistency and high velocity of updates and engagement that stands out.

The Age of the “Second Screen” is upon us in Kenya. We will no longer watch television without a second screen- a phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop - nearby.

It will become a part of the experience. Kenyans already frequently congregate around television programs - news, sports or entertainment but now they will also do so on social networks such as Twitter.

Tujuane stands out as an example of this. The dating television show that puts young singles together, sending them on a variety of dates and social interactions generates approximately 9,256 tweets per episode, and in 2013 cumulatively inspired over half a million tweets.

That is without monitoring Facebook and the rest of the web including blogs for other online mentions.

The show’s popularity among the valuable and digitally savvy Generation Y has seen it shift television stations from KTN to NTV in what is surely the station’s bid for a young, connected and in this case, captive audience.

We describe this as the “Tujuane Syndrome.”

What started out as Kenyans On Twitter (or #KOT) discussing the show turned into a weekly ritual that eventually caught the attention of the television station and the producers.

Having the video online further brought the Diaspora, and others who could not catch the broadcast, into the picture and gave longevity to the content. We are yet to see if Tujuane will fully embrace social media and the web as much as social media has embraced the show in its next season, but we can expect other television shows to do so.

Looking at the various categories of potential social television shows for 2014, we see a possible breakdown as follows:

Contestant-based Shows

As an example, 2013’s season of Tusker Project Fame, an East African reality-singing competition show, generated 43,736 tweets and made use of social media after #KOT continued the annual trend of discussing it online.

Reality TV shows

As an example, dating show Tujuane single-handedly featured in over 500,000 tweets in 2013. To put that in context, this was more than the KOT hashtag but less than Westgate which took place during and after the Westgate Mall attack at the popular Nairobi mall.

Fiction Television Shows

These are yet to be explored locally but the model has been done by Western shows before as seen by AMC’s Breaking Bad, ABC’s Scandal in The United States and BBC’s Sherlock in the United Kingdom.

Music Video Television Shows

Aimed at a teen audience, music video shows on television now fully incorporate
Twitter in their elaborate user-request driven shows. Collecting and approving
content coming in from social media has lessened that of SMS revenue. It has seen
recording artistes take to Twitter to launch and seed music to their fans. Kenyan
rapper, Rabbit had his hit song “Ligi Soo” trend through the month of December as
a key example.

The News

The 9 o’clock news generates some of Kenyan television’s highest ratings. The
opportunity for social television is best seen in investigative pieces by journalists who
build up anticipation through social networks such as Twitter. We can expect that
2014 and 2015 will see WhatsApp and rich participatory media such as images,
text, audio and user-submitted video to become the staple throughout for the news.

NENDO is a Nairobi-based boutique consultancy focused on Strategy and Storytelling for Digital Africa. The company is founded and led by Mark Kaigwa, selected among Forbes 30 under 30 Best Young Entrepreneurs in
Africa (2013)

Image credit: NENDO

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