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.
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 MonstersAndCritics.com, 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.