Two of the country's most popular Twitter feeds are racing to make the first television series based on a British feed.
The race is on to become the first British Twitter feed to spawn a television series.
Very British Problems (@SoVeryBritish), with 889,000 followers, is going head-to-head with parody account Elizabeth Windsor (@Queen_UK) and her 1.2 million followers, in a bid to transfer their online success to television sets across the country.
As well as both accounts signing television deals this September, the satirical @Queen_UK and patriotic parody @SoVeryBritish have both released books based on their feeds. With Very British Problems selling ten times as many copies as @Queen_UK's Still Reigning, many will be looking to see if this will affect the viewing figures of each show.
Alaska TV has optioned Very British Problems, written by journalist Rob Temple, for development. "Immediately I could see what the show was," says Ian Lamarra, Creative Director of Alaska, who came across the Twitter feed after celebrities such as Ricky Gervais and Stephen Fry started sharing the account's tweets with their followers.
"When I got in touch with Rob, I was 99% sure he'd already be making a show," says Lamarra, who sees the series as a talking heads show featuring upcoming and well established comedians riffing off Temple's tweets, interspersed with hidden camera elements.
Before Alaska contacted him, Temple hadn't thought about developing Very British Problems for television. "When I started it, I never even considered it becoming a book, and the possibility of it becoming a TV show is an even bigger surprise," he says.
Meanwhile, Dave has recently acquired six three-minute episodes of animated series Yes Ma'am, based on the @Queen_UK feed, which was originally commissioned by Yahoo and aired on Yahoo Screen in 2013. The Yes Ma'am shorts are set to be used as fillers on Dave in the new year, with the potential for a full-length series to be commissioned by the channel in the future.
"Broadcasters want to get involved with Twitter because it's the zeitgeist," says Mark Dodd, founder of digital media agency Sweetweets who helped develop Yes Ma'am with the anonymous writer behind the Twitter feed.
Dodd believes that the large number of people following popular accounts makes optioning Twitter feeds attractive.
"Imagine if all of [an account's followers] watched that show: that's an instant hit... What you've got is a guaranteed audience."
Adapting a Twitter feed for television is not without risks. In 2010, US network CBS aired $h*! My Dad Says, a sitcom starring William Shatner, based on writer Justin Halpern's tweets.
Despite winning a People's Choice Award for Favourite New Comedy, the show was panned by critics and cancelled after the first season.
Both Temple and Lamarra are keen to avoid a similar fate for Very British Problems by remaining true to Temple's tweets.
"What we're doing is essentially a visual Twitter," says Lamarra, "If you're going to option anything that's already popular, don't muck around with it too much."
Temple is quietly confident that his show will succeed if picked up by a broadcaster, "I don't see why it would tank seeing as people react to the Twitter feed so well, and it would be short, punchy and funny, hopefully. We'll see."
The rise in the number of Twitter feeds being optioned for television could be part of an emerging trend, says Ian Maude of Enders Analysis, however the close timings of these commissions could be coincidental. "Producers seek inspiration from all sorts of sources... Twitter is a platform for ideas so it's not surprising that production companies are taking inspiration from things that seem to be attracting interest," says Maude.
With Yes Ma'am currently in short-form and Very British Problems still in the early stages of development, it may be some time before Twitter feeds begin to fill television schedules.
By Pippa Shawley