Social Media Invades Television

The introduction of social media into popular culture has forever changed the way television researches its audience. No longer are media focus groups the only gauge for broadcasters, now decision-makers embrace new technology for feedback on anything and everything related to their product.
Ted Linhart, Vice President of Program Research at USA Network is an active member of Twitter. His feed, at “@TedOnTV”, is a mix of current show commentary and information about development, along with breaking network news. A press release about the feed promises that Linhart will reward followers with giveaways and show memorabilia.

Show creators are also jumping on the twitter bandwagon to hype their shows and let viewers in on the creative process. Shonda Rhimes, creator of both “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Private Practice” and Hart Hanson, creator of “Bones”, post often with inside looks at what’s happening both in the writing process and in the actual production of their shows.

“Men of a Certain Age” creator Mike Royce talked recently about viewers commenting on a certain characters contradicting actions, saying that he had to rethink some choices he was making for that character.

So it’s clear that viewer feedback via social media often does affect the creative process.

Want to do more than just read and respond to a twitter feed? How about audition for a show?

The FOX network mega-hit show “Glee” is hosting online auditions to fill upcoming roles. Check out how you can submit your audition at http://www.myspace.com/gleeauditions.

If you think the actual power of social media is still lost many television executives, think again.

Just look at the example of the Facebook campaign for actress Betty White to host “Saturday Night Live”.

Started by 29-year-old David Mathews, the campaign begin in February as a simple idea.

As 88-year-old White began enjoying a career resurgence after a role in the hit comedy “The Proposal” and a well received Super Bowl Ad, Mathews thought she’d be a good choice to host the 35-year old sketch comedy show. Using the power of Facebook, some 500,000 fans have ‘friended’ the site, “Betty White to Host SNL (please?)” at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Betty-White-to-Host-SNL-please/266442514828?ref=ts

White responded to the campaign by publicly letting “SNL” Executive Producer Lorne Michaels know that she would be game to host, but that it was up to him.

In March, Michaels announced that White will in fact host the May 8, 2010 edition of “Saturday Night Live”.

As social media interaction grows there is no telling how far television executives will go to find new ways to use it, but one thing is for sure, it’s here to stay and is already significantly changing the landscape of the medium.