The television industry has changed a lot since the days of All in the Family, Green Acres and I Dream of Jeannie and I’m not just talking about the plots. These days television programs are much more than weekly 30-minute or hour-long episodes.
Every show’s got a Facebook page. You can “check in” to a program with GetGlue or Foursquare. You can use a hashtag to tweet with other viewers during a program. Some shows will even feature a hashtag in the corner of the screen during the broadcast to help better connect viewers on Twitter, what kind of cockamamie shenanigans is that?!?
With the rise of DVRs, On-Demand and video-streaming services, networks have to keep up with viewers well beyond their shows’ standard running times. It’s not rare that some of a show’s biggest fans will watch each week’s episode a few hours or days after it initially aired. Social media allows these viewers to engage in conversation or find out more information about an episode, regardless of when they actually watched it.
I could tell you all about Hulu and Netflix but still don’t know how to use the damn things. My son-in-law put Perry Mason on my Instant Queue in April and now I’m halfway through the fifth season, haven’t had any need to hit a button or anything. But I digress.
Facebook pages and Twitter handles give fans unique extensions of their favorite programs. By teasing users with exclusive content, interviews with actors and even mobile apps and games, networks are able to whet the appetite of fans and viewers 24/7. Social media has become one of the premier marketing and promotional tools for television programs, especially ones preparing to debut this fall. The social media realm is presently flooded with promotional material for Pan-Am, 2 Broke Girls and a revamped Two and a Half Men starring Demi Moore or something.
But what’s most eye opening to me is this new fad of television programs breaking the third wall and having characters actually appear on Twitter. It’s hard for me to imagine seeing “Laverne De Fazio has checked in at Shotz Brewery”, reading Maude’s Tumblr blog or The Sunshine Cab Company having a Facebook page. I figure I’d need to get my glasses prescription checked if I thought I saw Jethro Bodine sending out a tweet.
USA Network recently had an alternative plot for its show Covert Affairs play out over Twitter this past summer and the Science Fiction Network (Syfy???) is currently running a similar promotional ploy for its show Haven. (Don’t get me started on the fact that there’s actually an entire channel devoted to the dreaded science fiction genre today.)
Haven, based on the Stephen King novel The Colorado Kid, follows the adventures of FBI agent Audrey Parker in the mysterious town of Haven, Maine. Since the town’s newspaper plays an integral part in the program, two reporters, Vince (@VinceHaven) and Dave (@DaveHaven), made excellent candidates for characters to appear on Twitter. The two Haven locals interact with a mysterious third character, @ColdInHaven. The three allude to different points from each week’s episode.
While the concept is exciting and groundbreaking, we’re yet to learn if this type of character engagement translates into ratings and advertising dollars. Do you think there is much future in incorporating social media into television programs? What shows would you like to see integrate Facebook and Twitter with their characters?