ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
MTV wants to stay on top of what the kids are doing with the new show, "It's On with Alexa Chung." One of the ways the show tries to be current is by incorporating Twitter into its broadcasts. Well, commentator Andrew Wallenstein says MTV is one of many networks trying, operative word, trying, to use the newest new media. Here is how it works with Alexa Chung.
(Soundbite of show, "It's On with Alexa Chung")
Unidentified Man: Be part of the show, find us, befriend us, Tweet us, you know the deal, it's on.
Mr. ANDREW WALLENSTEIN (Commentator, Hollywood Reporter): Seems cool, right? Type a message in Twitter, watch it appear on your living room set. But MTV has experimented with this before and none too recently - try 12 years ago. Then it was called "Yack Live" and it displayed chat room comments during MTV shows. That's something to keep in perspective as Twitter mania sweeps television. Twitter itself signed a deal with a production company to explore its options. Some CNN newscasters have practically made Twitter their co-anchor.
Unidentified Woman #1: And our final tweet: I'm disgusted by what this man did. However…
Mr. WALLENSTEIN: And the E! channel streams a feed of celebrity tweets across the lower third of its screen.
Ms. MALENA CAITLYN(ph) (E! News): Malena Caitlyn here for E! News now.
Mr. WALLENSTEIN: A relatively recent history is littered with futile attempts to integrate television with the technology de jour. Look at the new CBS series "Harper's Island."
(Soundbite of TV show, "Harpers Island")
Unidentified Woman #2: (As character) I just can't believe my dad doing any of this. Taking Madison? The killings?
Mr. WALLENSTEIN: What this whodunit mystery does differently is extend its storylines online with additional videos and social networking. But the show is a ratings flop. That's because this kind of online extension doesn't bring new viewers in, it just overindulges the hardcore fans who aren't going to stray anyway.
A second-passing techno-fancy is virtual worlds. Three-dimensional communities online like Second Life, where networks build elaborate environments for fans to congregate. Couple of years ago, everyone from "CSI" to "The L Word" rushed into this space, but ever since the initial hoopla, TV had left Second Life a ghost town.
Here's a third flash in the pan you probably don't even remember. ABC's enhanced TV. Shows like "Monday Night Football" and "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" featured Web experiences that allowed you to play along with the show while you watched. But enhanced TV and its ilk are now extinct. Now you might be asking yourself, with all this failure, why does anyone bother trying to bridge this chasm between TV and other technology? Well, TV programmers kind of have to because computers and phones are their biggest competitors, luring eyeballs away from TV sets.
Perhaps there's some fundamental disconnect between the passive experience of watching TV and the interactive nature of the Internet. If so, don't tell the TV networks. As long as there's hope of new revenues, they'll never stop trying to make it happen.
SIEGEL: Commentator Andrew Wallenstein of the Hollywood Reporter.
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