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Twitter Is Changing Television As We Know It

by Sean P. Aune | February 9, 2010February 9, 2010 3:04 pm PST

Every time you turn around there is another group or study about how Twitter has stopped growing as fast as it used to, and that must mean that no one cares about the service any longer.  Well, the problem is that there are a lot of people in industries such as television that seem to think it still matters to the point that they are willing to change years of tradition to accommodate the trends of Twitter to make sure all viewers get the chance to enjoy the television programs at the same time.

tvlovetwitterTelevision has been slowly integrating itself with the popular micro blogging service Twitter over the past year or so. It started in small ways with mentions in various shows, perhaps a scrolling Twitter stream at the bottom of the screen or finding some way to reach out to fans via Twitter character accounts.  Now we are suddenly hearing of several instances where Twitter isn’t just getting small mentions, but it is being widely embraced, and even influencing programming decisions.

During this year’s Super Bowl, the NFL (National Football League) decided to help the Twitter community out by announcing an official hashtag for the game.  While the users of the service usually come up with hashtags on their own, in the days leading up to the game, the NFL announced that #SB44 would be the “official” hashtag to be used on Twitter and Flickr.  This is the first instance that I know I can remember an “official” hashtag being announced.  That seems to be a clear indication that major businesses are taking the service seriously, even if many people still think Twitter is a fad.

Now in what could be one of the biggest examples of how much the entertainment industry is taking Twitter seriously, it appears that NBC is considering changing the way it broadcasts award shows to take into account Twitter and Facebook spoilers.  According to Broadcasting & Cable, the peacock network tested out the theory of broadcasting an awards show at the same time across all time zones with the recent Golden Globes.  As opposed to the usual airing the show live in the Eastern and Central time zones, and tape delayed for Mountain and Pacific areas, the show aired at the same time everywhere and there was a 12 percent jump in viewership.  It is now said that NBC is considering doing the same with this year’s Emmy broadcast, but no final decision has been made as of yet.

At the same time that NBC thinks avoiding spoilers helped the Golden Globes, CBS saw a jump of 35 percent in overall viewership for the Grammys.  The reason appeared to be partially due to people in the first two timezones sending out Tweets about the must-see performances which in turn caused more people to tune in despite knowing the outcome of each award.

While time delay may work on shows heavy in performances, those that are award focused are probably going to be better served by airing at the same time across the entire nation.  While Twitter may not have hit true mainstream success as of yet, its impact is clearly being felt at all levels of business.  Complain about a company on Twitter, and you’ll probably get contacted by a service rep, and if you spoil enough awards shows, they’ll move them to accommodate everyone.  What a concept.

What are some of the ways you’ve seen Twitter changing the overall world around you?


Sean P. Aune

Sean P. Aune has been a professional technology blogger since July 2007, but his love of tech dates back to at least 1976 when his parents bought...

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