Fox is tapping into the real-time social network mojo with a gimmick on re-runs of Fringe and Glee: Each program will carry a Twitter feed containing text from the cast and questions from fans. Clever idea, or disaster in the making?
It all starts this week when the repeat runs of Fringe and Glee hit the airwaves. Some are already dubbing the gimmick "tweet-peats" (but wouldn't Tweepeats be better?). As each episode is broadcast there'll be a scrolling Twitter feed accompanying it onscreen, which is a slightly dead one-way delivery of the Twitter data, something akin to the cast and crew commentary versions of films that many DVDs offer as an extra. But fans can also see the Twitter feed online, and this is really where the idea is interesting--because of Twitters interactivity, you can Tweet out a question and point it to the cast and crew members who're taking part at the time.
Instantly that transforms the idea from a slightly cheesey-sounding marketing gimmick to something much more interesting. Want to find out what happened behind the scenes at a particular moment in the show? Simply Tweet your question. Curious why the producer made a particular decision about the program? Ask them live. That's a truly rewarding use of Twitter's real-time nature to really get fans bought into the shows concerned--great interactivity and unusual access "inside" a show.
But therein lies the rub: Fox needs to be really really careful with this. The Twitter feed that gets broadcast is going to be moderated, presumably to prevent spamming and so that Fox can shape the debate to its benefit. The fan questions aspect of the Tweepeats is merely a part of the service...and Fox will probably exercise pretty strict control over what makes it onscreen--you're unlikely to see Tweets like "why is actor X so wooden here?" or "Man, that plot twist is totally dumb!" I imagine. That may or may not be fair, but it definitely doesn't tally with the free-form debate that drives Twitter and makes it worthwhile. And if Fox is too strict about moderating the Tweets then it really risks fan disengagement, rather than buy-in. And I suspect that's particularly true for Fringe, with sci-fi fans who stereotypically tend towards detail-obsession, and passionate opinionating.
Still, assuming the Tweepeats experiment is a success, I wonder how long it'll be until Fox tries it out on a non-repeat show? That could really get an audience bought into a new production in a flash.
[via The Hollywood Reporter]