Fox's Twitter TV Experiment Tweets Its Way to Epic Failure

When Fox revealed its plan to broadcast reruns of Fringe and Glee with a live Twitter feed overlay, I said they had to be really really careful. But Fox didn't listen. From user comments online it looks like the experiment earned itself a big FAIL.

And it wasn't necessarily because the moderated streams pissed off devoted fans. The problem is that regular viewers were annoyed at the intrusion of the Twitter-based babble taking up precious on-screen real-estate. Check out the pics Dave Zatz managed to grab—the wacky formatting and those huge text boxes obliterate the action.

Fringe with Twitter

Of the five commenters on my original article about the plan, all five found the Twitter feed unsatisfying. Sarah Lynd's response is the simplest, and will represent the kind of response that Fox will be 100% unhappy to hear: "This is one of the stupidests tests I've seen. I switched over to 30 Rock." But these guys are not alone. Dave Zatz himself noted it made "Fringe unwatchable" on his widescreen TV, and speculated it would be even worse in traditional 4:3 format. Meanwhile, over at, the first eight anonymous commenters noted how intrusive and annoying it was: "Most annoying thing I have ever seen," and "take it off the screen so we can see the show" being typical responses.

Positive comments were few and far between. So why did it fail so badly? Because whoever was in charge of the look and feel of the Twitter experiment made a massive error, and turned the Twitter overlay from a fun fact-filled add on to a massive, irritating distraction. The content of the Tweets are always going to annoy some fans who just want to watch the show, so Fox should've relegated the Twitter overlay to a narrow, dark-colored strip right at the bottom of the screen where it wouldn't interfere with the action. Fox should check out the BBC's News graphic overlays, which are a good model for how this could work much more successfully and tastefully.

[via ZatzNotFunny]

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  • Tom Jonshon

    Michael, i think the buzz about this was just horrible. I really think that the idea was not bad. They had the chance of using some idol stars, already posting on twitter, but they decided to go in a different way. We'll have to see if a new attempt will be tried.

  • Pavel Strobik

    Twitter on TV annoys me as pointless drivel. Because of twitter, Facebook is getting just as bad. I am hoping (but fear I am wrong) that this social networking stuff it a passing fad.

    Pavel, twitter poll.

  • Michael Brown

    Why must every single aspect of events and happenings be open to instant feedback and public critique & criticism anyway? I DONT CARE what anybody else has to say about a show I'm watching WHILE I'm watching it. If I want to exchange banter about a show, I'll jump on someone's blog AFTER the fact. Keep people comments out of the equation.

    Heck, most people don't even enjoy watching the Director's Commentary version of their favorite DVDs because they'd just rather not have their movie watching experience getting all spliced up and muddied. What ever made FOX think that the odds would be more in their favor by plastering instant viewer feedback on the screen?

  • Carl Marxer

    Really, now. Can't the broadcasters allow twitter to handle the twitter feeds? Why does it have to be on the TV screen? It is on Twitter! That is duplication of service. Broadcasters need to understand their role in the new media universe. They are no longer all things to all people. I watched the show, and the twitter stuff interfered with the graphics within the program. A simple invitation and occasional link is all that is necessary. Resizing the image makes it smaller, and harder to view. We can't just throw out all of the rules of graphics just because we want to seem cool and include twitter feeds in the broadcast.

  • Mathew Ballard

    That is just dumb. Why would you cover that much space with Twitter comments or really with anything. People get annoyed when local stations put their weather alert stuff on the screen, why wouldn't they get annoyed by this?

  • Carlos Castillo

    They should do as G4 does with their Interactive 'Cops' show. They overlay the IRC comments as a ticker tape a the very bottom of the screen. This way those that don't care to watch can just ignore it. And since it doesn't take much real estate it is easy to do.

  • Jonathan Baldwin

    Personally I hate the BBC's news overlays - in fact anything that distracts from what's going on on screen is in the way. TV seems to thing "more info the better" - I'm fed up with programmes interrupting me in that way. UK TV is going down the US route with animated programme trails now appearing over the programme I'm watching, "coming next" text and so on... I now watch most of my TV after broadcast on DVD, that's how bad it is!

  • Dave Kawalec

    Pop-ups on re-runs of Lost is bad enough. Seriously, you literally need the producers to explain the plot to you? The Twitter feed on Fringe was just unbearable. I was watching last night hoping to get syched up for the new season. Instead I changed channels after about 3 minutes.

  • Matthew Szymczyk

    Kit - It's interesting that this didn't fly while there seems to be a "Rocky Horror Picture Show 2.0" renaissance going on with Gen Y in theaters with MuVChat.

    Here's the blog post I had awhile back on MuVchat -


  • Christine Jagodowski

    I don't care where they had placed the twitter on the show, It sucked, are they going to have twitter on the NFL games, guess I am glad I have the NFL package so I won't have to watch Fox Shows.

  • Geoff Jones

    I don't understand why they didn't just resize the broadcast or model it after a sports ticker. Having never watched Fringe, it made it even more unwatchable. I did tune in to see the content and its delivery and was thoroughly unimpressed and agree with your judgment.

  • Michael Krakovskiy

    Maybe it would have worked if they placed the twitter box over in-show surfaces and did it only a tiny little bit. But watch what you say about Fringe - Fast Company offices are located in the Massive Dynamic building.