Twitter Offers New Dimension To Live TV

A number of celebrities have taken to live-tweeting while their pre-taped shows air — including Survivor host Jeff Probst, Mark Cuban on ABC's "Shark Tank," and Anthony Bourdain on Travel Channel's "No Reservations." The audience that has already sprung up on Twitter to turn watching their favorite show into a communal event can now interact directly with one of the people they're tweeting about. It restores the value of watching TV programming live as it airs at a time when secondary options from Hulu to iTunes to DVRs are draining the value of commercials.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

For a while now, TV fans have been using Twitter to watch shows together. As the shows air, they make comments and jokes. Sometimes live programs, cable news channels or talk shows show the tweets onscreen.

Well, now the stars of taped primetime reality shows are getting in on the conversation, and commentator Andrew Wallenstein loves it.

ANDREW WALLENSTEIN: My new favorite show on Friday night is the ABC reality series "Shark Tank."

(Soundbite of "Shark Tank")

Unidentified Man #1: In the tank, the sharks are ready to invest, using their own money.

WALLENSTEIN: The show features entrepreneurs pitching a new product idea to a group of investors.

(Soundbite of "Shark Tank")

Mr. MATTY SALAN: Hello sharks, my name is Matty Salan(ph), and my produce is called Wakin' Bacon.

WALLENSTEIN: The newest shark on the show is mogul Mark Cuban.

(Soundbite of "Shark Tank")

Unidentified Man #2: Mark, are you really interested in this?

Mr. MARK CUBAN: I like the idea.

Unidentified Man #2: You really think cooking bacon bedside is a good idea?

Mr. CUBAN: It's a gag gift.

WALLENSTEIN: But actually, Cuban didn't like the idea. I know because I was following him on Twitter. Just as he was saying on TV how much he liked the pitch, he tweeted that he hated it.

Getting that kind of inside dope is why more and more these days I find myself watching TV with Twitter on a laptop. Stars like Cuban can watch along with me and send dozens of messages per episode. Often enough, it's jokes or behind-the-scenes insights you just don't get watching the show alone.

And the beauty of Twitter is that it's not one-way communication. Take "Survivor," where host Jeff Probst questions competitors during the tribal council.

(Soundbite of "Survivor")

Mr. JEFF PROBST (Host): Pavarti, is that just a known fact that everyone believes, which is Ozzy has the idol?

Ms. PAVARTI SHALLOW (Contestant): Yeah.

Mr. PROBST: Ozzy, does that put a target on your back?

Mr. OZZY LUSTH: I mean, of course.

WALLENSTEIN: On Twitter, Probst is often the one answering questions. It makes you feel like Probst is sitting next to you on the couch while you're watching.

But here's another TV star who's always pushing boundaries, Travel Channel's Anthony Bourdain.

(Soundbite of television program)

Mr. ANTHONY BOURDAIN: I've had less than happy experiences with lizards in general and iguanas in particular. In fact, the last time I had it, I wanted to gargle with bleach and throw myself off a mountain.

WALLENSTEIN: He travels all over the world eating the craziest cuisines.

(Soundbite of television program)

Mr. BOURDAIN: When served it's usually with a fresh, crunchy cabbage slaw so popular around here, and it hits like a (BLEEP) brick, let me tell you.

WALLENSTEIN: But while he gets bleeped on TV, you get the full flavor of Bourdain on Twitter, which is great if you like your TV chefs a little saltier.

Though Bourdain and the others may be live-Tweeting because they enjoy it, this is about marketing, too. More and more, people aren't watching TV shows when they're first on. They can watch on Hulu, iTunes or their own DVRs.

But the networks want to pull people back to the original airdate because that's where they charge most for commercials. And how's that for irony? With a little help from Twitter, good old-fashioned TV can hold its own.

BLOCK: Andrew Wallenstein is television editor at Variety.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.