The use of Twitter and Facebook as second screens while watching TV is helping to push viewers back to live viewing in an age when DVRs and on-demand programming have pushed down ratings, observers say. "It's a great symbiotic relationship where we drive the conversation on Twitter, and that conversation on Twitter drives people back to watch our shows," said Viacom chief Philippe Dauman. He pointed to MTV's Video Music Awards, a show that generated 18.5 million tweets, according to Nielsen's Social Guide.

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