FOX's "tweet-peat" promotion – scrolling Twitter posts onscreen during reruns of "Fringe" and "Glee" this week – is a clever combination of some new and not-so-old ideas.
Part DVD commentary, part "Pop-up Video,” part "Mystery Science Theater 3000," the setup likely will appeal to Twitter-savvy and Twitter-curious viewers – and maybe just change the way we watch TV.
But will some viewers drown in the Twitter stream?
Plans call for the shows' creators and casts to tweet live during the broadcasts, according to press reports. Viewers will be able to contribute questions and comments, via Twitter, but it’s unclear whether any will make it onto the screen.
The move comes amid Twitter's growing popularity, particularly as a vehicle for celebrity- and entertainment-related chatter. It also comes as watching TV is increasingly turning into an online experience for some, thanks to Hulu and other video outlets. The Social TV app already lets friends watch the same online video together and comment in real time.
But the big difference with the “tweet-peat” experiment is the lack of choice – the posts will scroll along the bottom of the screen whether or not the viewer is interested.
FOX is wise to test the gimmick at the sleepy end of summer, and target shows geared toward a young, presumably wired audience. Even if the stunt flops, the network stands to build a little buzz for its fall schedule.
Using Twitter to transform TV watching into an interactive experience seems a natural extension of where information and entertainment technology is headed. But a big element of interactivity is giving the user control.
It might be time for cable systems or TV manufacturers to build in an on/off button for potential attractions/distractions like Twitter crawls. For many viewers, at least for first-run programs, a good show is still entertainment enough.
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.