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Twitter and the Future of TV

Twitter’s Director of Media Partnerships Robin Sloan spoke Wednesday about the role of tweets in the television landscape at the NewTeeVee Live conference in San Francisco. Specifically, he focused on three key areas where he believes Twitter is having an impact on the television landscape: synchronous show tweeting, social viewing and new kinds of content.

Synchronous show tweeting refers to what Sloan described as a new kind of “3-D TV.” He wasn’t referring to actual three-dimensional television though, but more to how tweets and especially pictures can give users a 360-degree look into a particular program or event. He pointed out how tweets showed what was happening backstage and off-camera during the 2010 Emmy Awards. Such methods give users a unique way to experience events and live shows when they are not there.

The second point Sloan touched upon was “social viewing.” His argument is that Twitter (Twitter) is the new EPG (electronic program guide). Instead of flipping through menus or guides to find or interact with television content, users now have Twitter. He specifically cited @106andpark as an innovator in the social viewing space; the BET show utilizes trending topics to gather show feedback and posts tweets about the show so that users feel as if they’re viewing the show with others, even if they’re just alone at home.

The end of the talk touched on how Twitter is creating new kinds of content in the television realm. He cited MTV’s Twitter Jockey (TJ) as an example; Gabi Gregg utilizes Twitter on MTV shows to create discussion around the topics viewers are tweeting about. Utilizing the #VMA hashtag, MTV was able to track who was the most-discussed performer at the show (Lady Gaga was number one, if you were wondering). The end result was that the information Twitter provided helped the VMAs create new content and discussion points for the preshow.

While Sloan’s examples of Twitter integration in television were good ones, it still feels like that Twitter has a long way to go before it truly becomes part of the television experience. Tracking trending topics is nice, but what about users actually controlling programming through their tweets? Could you receive tweets from your friends watching the same show?

One thing’s for sure — there’s still a lot of room for Twitter to grow on the glowing screens in our living rooms

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