Television sets often determine the layout of the furniture in communal rooms. Their position in the typical American home is a clear testament to their social function, a purpose that can be traced back to the origins of theater and other communal rituals.
Television programmers have always been involved in family and/or group dynamics. Successful programmers must not only persuade individual viewers to watch a show, they must also win over the viewer’s family and/or co-habitants. (This network often extends to peers and friends but it’s unlikely to exclude the home.)
This inherently social context is not solely a function of the linearity of traditional television – the fact that it is distributed at set times with an emphasis on those times when most viewers are available (i.e., “prime time.”)
Non-linear or video on demand is also, in its own way, a very social practice. In order for a “web video” to become popular, it must be shared by its viewers. Thus, even though such programs are often consumed by a solitary individual on a personal device (computer, tablet, smart phone), they are still dependent on group dynamics for their success.
Thus, whether programming a linear or non-linear channel, the programmer must consider the social role of the experience – how it will be presented by one viewer to another, how it will impact their relationships, how it will be used – for it to reach its maximal audience.