The TV Revolution Will Be Tweeted

Twitter seeks to grow the relationship between the TV screen and the 'second screen.'


Social media platform Twitter is expanding into the television industry.

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The fall has always been a big time for the television industry as it ramps up for a whole new season of programming. However, attention is also being lavished on the so-called "second screen," the computer, tablet or smartphone screen that viewers are increasingly keeping open, particularly to tweet about their favorite shows.

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Over the past year or so, Twitter has been making a number of significant moves into the TV space. It's hired execs with ties to the television community, such as Fred Graver who has written, produced and created a number of shows, and Jennifer Prince, who previously led media and entertainment ad sales for Google.

The television industry is paying attention, and not just those in charge of a network's bottom line. Even the creative forces behind television shows have acknowledged the impact Twitter has had on their relationship with viewers. "When you realize when 50 people on social media are misunderstanding that in the same exact way, that's something we have to correct," Robert King, "The Good Wife" co-creator said in a New York Times-hosted TV producer roundtable conversation about Twitter.

When Twitter talks about its expansion into the TV industry, the company stresses that its approach is not about "disruption" – a common term in the tech world – but "synergy." Unlike other Internet media companies, Twitter has made no plans – publicly anyway – to produce content meant to compete with television. Rather than seeking out a bigger slice of the television pie, Twitter says it wants to make the pie bigger for everyone: for television, for its advertisers, and of course, for Twitter.

Leading this effort is Graver, head of Twitter TV, whose team develops Twitter's place in the television industry. Twitter works with television execs to show them the best way to use the platform to promote their programming, talks to network contacts on a weekly basis and often hosts seminars on best practices for shows' publicity and marketing teams. And no one will deny that Twitter is an invaluable resource to the television industry. "It's now part of the fabric of how we promote the shows," one Chris Ender, CBS's executive vice president of communications, says. says.

Of course, it's ultimately up to networks to determine how to best use Twitter, and some even claim some of the credit for Twitter's growth in the space.

"We were the first people to do anything on Twitter around a television show and we have had many firsts along the way," says Fox's President of Digital Media David Wertheimer, citing the 2007 Fox show "Drive."

"Twitter has started to realize how important TV is and what a huge percentage of the content on Twitter is about what's on TV," he says.

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Wertheimer describes Fox's social media strategy as a combination of producing micro-content (content for a show's Twitter and other social media platforms), shareable content (which fans of a show can share on their own accounts) and driving the conversation on Twitter and elsewhere, before, during and after a show's airtime (and even between seasons). The exact combination depends on the specific show. Even shows as similar as "The Mindy Project" and "New Girl" – both comedies of related subject matter geared to the same demographic that air back-to-back – have their own particular approaches.

Likewise at CBS and its other properties, social media strategy is developed on a case-by-case basis. "A majority of the work happens at the show level," says Marc DeBevoise, CBS Interactive executive vice president and general manager of entertainment, sports and news. Members of his team work with a show's individual publicists, producers and talent to come up with their strategy. "The main feature has always been live chatting and tweeting and self promotion – getting talent involved with audience directly to really engage the audience before, during and after shows," DeBevoise says. (Multiple industry sources praise ABC's "Scandal" and its showrunner Shonda Rhimes as being pioneers on this front.)