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How TV is harnessing social networks to deliver a two-screen future

You can see his point. In a pre-social age, coverage would come from one perspective, but there are now thousands of voices joining the commentary.

Throwing the newsroom open to citizen journalism isn't without its risks, though: citizen journalists may have a zeal for storytelling, but don't always worry about fact-checking. But storytelling and news reporting are embracing social media. They're experimenting, learning and adapting, but if hard statistics are anything to go by, they could all learn a thing or two from the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

The UFC is an American fighting tournament where - within reason - anything goes. The first UFC event was held in 1993, and in its formative years the competitions were decried as violent sideshows. Today UFC is the world's fastest growing sport and has become mainstream.

The UFC's parent company, Zuffa, is presided over by the sport's patriarch and ringmaster, Dana White. White, at the time of writing, has 2.2 million followers on Twitter. To put this in context, Sepp Blatter, president of football's governing body FIFA, has 266,369 followers.

The UFC itself has over half a million fans, and two of its biggest stars, Rashad Evans and Jon Jones, have 208,000 and 392,000 followers respectively. White was quick to realise social media's potential as a means of bringing fans and their favourite fighters closer together.

"Twitter your asses off"

Indeed, in 2011 the UFC began a Twitter bonus scheme where fighters received $5,000 cash prizes for growing their personal followings. Along with financial incentives, the UFC corporate machine provided its fighters with social media training.

Dana White is said to have given them a simple instruction: "I want you to Twitter your asses off ." White himself tweets before, during and after UFC events. He posts fight commentaries and replies to viewers' questions.

Zuffa's use of social media goes much deeper than commentating on events. During the build up to fights, White likes to tweet his location so fans can meet him. He is often mobbed, and gives away tickets to future shows.

All this could be chalked up to clever PR, and indeed it is, but the Twitter fire is fuelled and fanned by one man with a BlackBerry, and that doesn't cost much.

During big events, the UFC also broadcasts early evening support fights on Facebook. These bouts are shown online before the main show is aired on pay-per-view TV.

A vision of the future

So, what will TV be like in 2022? Gareth Capon is putting his money on "a more personal and contextual future." Your TV will likely be capable of understanding the time of day, the weather and your mood. Armed with this information, it will suggest programmes that you're likely to enjoy. The TV schedule would become a relic.

If you need convincing of social TV's credentials as a game-change, consider watching football on TV in 2022. As you watch the game, you'll have access to photos and video captured by fans in the stadium on their mobiles. You'll see "a blend of social content from phones and live action". It could be better than actually being there.