Artifact: The Moment Twitter Met TV

Read the unearthed 2007 email from Twitter cofounder Biz Stone to “Drive” (and later “House”) producer Greg Yaitanes that laid out Twitter’s tele-vision.

Artifact: The Moment Twitter Met TV
[Image: Flickr user Sun Dazed]

Today, Twitter and TV may be synonymous–a show is no longer a show without a requisite hashtag, and rare is the cast member who does not live-tweet. But that wasn’t always the case.


Back in 2007, when Greg Yaitanes, an Emmy-winning director of “House,” was executive producing “Drive” at Fox, he had an idea. As an early investor in Twitter, Yaitanes was savvy about technology and the potential impact it could have on entertainment. In Twitter, he saw a natural platform for fans of TV shows to share their opinions and form communities; a digital extension of the proverbial water cooler. But back then, Fox didn’t see things his way (my, how things have changed). “I remember going to Fox and saying, ‘There’s this new platform,’ and I tried to explain it,” Yaitanes recently told Fast Company. “I wanted to use it. But I could not bang them over the head and get them to pay attention to what I was trying to do.”

Undeterred, Yaitanes and Twitter cofounder Biz Stone set up their own Twitter handle for Drive and proceeded to live-tweet the show’s premiere. The experiment–detailed in this recapping email sent from Stone to Yaitanes and Dave Sliozis, an executive at Fox–provides the very first glimmer of how Twitter began to revolutionize the television-viewing experience.

From: Biz Stone [email address redacted]
Date: Wed, Apr 18, 2007 at 4:23 PM
Subject: Our Twitter Drive Experiment
To: Greg Yaitanes, Dave Sliozis


That was really fun! Thanks for taking the time to do this experiment with us–technically speaking we made history. Foxdrive was the first ever Director’s Commentary during a broadcast premiere.

With short notice and only a small mention in an email, the profile page we set up on Twitter for Drive quickly added 732 friends and saw close to 10k page views. Haven’t had a chance to do a query yet but I plan to multiply the 732 friends times the number of updates those users made during the broadcast times how many followers each Drive friend had to determine approximately how many Drive-related web pages were created on Sunday night.


[Every update becomes a page like this:]

For example, if each foxdrive friend sent five texts about the show during the broadcast and on average folks usually have around 10 friends, then 36,600 Drive-related web pages were created through Twitter. Greg and I had a couple hundred favorites, which are listed here:

Overall, modest numbers but the response from the Web was overwhelmingly positive. Folks recognized this as a never-before-been done combination of mobile technology and television. There were about 170 blog posts and at least two news articles written about the experiment.

Quotes ranging from “Awesome, amazing, outstanding use of the technology” to “Normally I’d record the show so I could watch it later and fast forward through the commercials. Instead I watched it in real time so I could get the commentary” were common in the blogs I was reading over the weekend.

Overall, I’d say this is an awesome starting point. With on air-promotion and a little more strategy, Twitter could fuel some interesting discussion and interaction with Fox programming. Would love to chat more about that if you guys are interested.



About the author

Nicole LaPorte is an LA-based senior writer for Fast Company who writes about where technology and entertainment intersect. She previously was a columnist for The New York Times and a staff writer for Newsweek/The Daily Beast and Variety