TV ReTweeted – event report

TV ReTweeted – event report

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Wednesday, 28th May 2014

The power of Twitter to drive TV audiences was demonstrated by the success of an MTV initiative that saw 166 million Tweets generated over five weeks by a vote to find the hottest summer pop act.

The power of Twitter to drive TV audiences was demonstrated by the success of an MTV initiative that saw 166 million Tweets generated over five weeks by a vote to find the hottest summer pop act.

One Direction beat Justin Bieber in the contest last August as audiences for the flagship UK MTV Music channel surged by 55%, according to MTV’s Virginia Monaghan, VP of Music Content and Commissioning.

“We found a perfect integration between online, Twitter and TV,” Monaghan told an RTS early event event, “TV ReTweeted”, held at London’s Hospital Club.

“Across our network of music channels rating were up by 22% over a five-week period… Twitter obviously helped in pushing those social-media fans back into watching the channel.”

MTV’s Hottest began life as a UK vote but quickly went global, thanks to social media.

To see a gallery of pictures from the night, click here


The TV ReTweeted panel (L-R): Chair: Kate Bulkley, Media Commentator @katecomments; Iain Coyle, Commissioning Editor, UKTV; Dan Jones, Creative Director, Digital, Maverick TV; Martin Greenbank, Head of Advertising Research & Development, Channel 4; Dan Biddle, Broadcast Partnerships, Twitter UK; Virginia Monaghan, VP Music Content & Commissioning, MTV

Kate Bulkley (left) chaired the evening, asking probing questions of each of the speakers; Dan Biddle (centre) opened the discussion with a humerous look at the Twitter-sphere and how it has changed our relationship with television; Virginia Monaghan spoke candidly about the benefits of hashtags when trying to connect and bond with your audience.

The ability of Twitter to increase ratings and viewing engagement is a controversial topic in broadcasting circles, but there is no doubt that the UK’s 15 million-plus active Twitter users spend a lot of time Tweeting about TV.

Research suggests that around 40% of Tweeting around primetime is related to TV content, said the RTS event’s chair, journalist Kate Bulkley.    

Dan Biddle, Head of Broadcast Partnerships at Twitter UK, described Twitter as “the world’s biggest living room” and “the pulse of the planet”.

He observed wryly to audience laughter that “the idea of people’s eyes meeting across a crowded room” no longer happens because nowadays everyone has their eyes down fixed on their mobiles or tablets.    

Formerly head of social media at the BBC, Biddle said Twitter has become invaluable to broadcasters seeking to understand more about how audiences behave.

On-screen hashtags are becoming ubiquitous as Twitter more and more becomes “the campfire around which everyone is telling stories”.

Twitter is powered by conversations and TV sparks conversations – especially around big events such as live sports and entertainment shows, but also pre-recorded campaigns such as Channel 4’s Fish Fight.  

“The grammar of TV and Twitter are very similar,” he claimed. “But there are certain things that TV shows need to do in order to work with the Twitter audience.”

From Dr Who to Justin Bieber to Ross Noble: the panel discussed the range of TV formats and talent that Twitter can compliment.

Dan Jones (left) helped produce the evening, along with Kate Bulkley, and referenced the potential to make TV more and more interactive through Twitter; Martin Greenbank helped ground the conversation by stating that Twitter doesn't always increase ratings directly; Iain Coyle argued that Twitter had thrown "all the rules of TV out of the window".

He explained how TV uses Twitter to promote shows before transmission, enhance viewer engagement during broadcast and drive audiences to catch-up services once a show has aired.

Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary special, The Day of the Doctor, is an example of the former, said Biddle  

Audiences were incentivised to Tweet at #SaveTheDay by receiving extra content once a certain number of Tweets had been reached.    

Despite these successes, Channel 4’s Head of Advertising Research & Development, Martin Greenbank, expressed some scepticism about Twitter’s apparent ability to increase ratings.

He said: “Our audience is younger and tech savvy, so social media is always of interest to us... Our approach [to Twitter] has always been experimental. From the start, a lot of mistakes were made using hashtags as well as a lot of sensible decisions…

“Because social media is so new, there is no set of rules that can be applied to everything we produce… Producers have got to test things… It is not a case of repeating what we did last year.

“Do Tweets drive viewing?… You can get it right with Tweets driving viewing but mainly it’s viewing driving Tweets.”

Channel 4’s Made In Chelsea is a good example of this.



A lively round of questions from the audience was followed by guests enjoying a complimentary drink from the RTS

From the producer’s perspective, Dan Jones – Creative Director, Digital at Maverick – drew attention to how Twitter enabled audiences to participate in the new Channel 4 panel show, Was It Something I Said?, which had grown out of an online commission.

He explained: “Viewers can play along on Twitter and are rewarded with bonus content.”

TV, of course, thrives on talent and a lot of celebrities are big Twitter users.  

Iain Coyle, Commissioning Editor for Entertainment at UKTV, said: “Generally, talent are the people who have embraced Twitter most enthusiastically.”

UKTV’s Dynamo has 2 million Twitter followers, for example. 

Coyle explained how Ross Noble Freewheeling, aired on Dave, was totally driven by Twitter, because the comedian used the social media network as his travel guide. “It’s the most honest programme you could ever make,” Coyle explained. “Nothing is set up… It throws all the rules of TV out of the window.”

A full report of “TV ReTweeted” will appear in the July/August edition of Television. The event was held at London’s Hospital Club on 27 May. The producers were Kate Bulkley and Dan Jones.   

Report by Steve Clarke

Photos by Paul Hampartsoumian

To see a gallery of pictures from the night, click here


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The power of Twitter to drive TV audiences was demonstrated by the success of an MTV initiative that saw 166 million Tweets generated over five weeks by a vote to find the hottest summer pop act.