How Twitter and chat are saving live TV. And it is more than Ask The Chancellors


For years now the accepted wisdom from broadcasters has been that live TV is becoming less and less important as viewers timeshift everything on devices like the Sky + box to watch later at their own convenience (and obviously skip all those ads). However over the last year or so a new trend has been developing which just might save live TV, and it is all down to Twitter and our innate need to share.

Last night’s Ask The Chancellors debate on Channel Four was a hugely compelling viewing experience with the three parties’ financial gurus talking tough on the economy, taxes and debt restructuring. Yet if you recorded it and watched the programme hours later you missed out on half of the reason why it was so exciting. For during the hour it was broadcast Twitter was ablaze with tweets about how the individuals were faring, what they were wearing, how they answered the questions and what the experts (and opinion polls) were saying. The debate was so popular on Twitter that the hash tag askthechancellors started trending much to the bemusement of the micro blogging tool’s hardcore US following.

And the Chancellors debate is just the beginning. The leader debates are sure to be a really exciting brawl on Twitter as die hard hacks champion their men in a bid to influence floating voters.

It isn’t just politics that is central to the new TV/Twitter alliance – there’s sport too. Wednesday sees perhaps the most eagerly awaited football match of 2010 as Arsenal take on Barcelona in the Champions League quarter final. Once again this is likely to be fascinating on Twitter with many neutrals offering really intelligent and objective insights on the game. TechDigest’s sister website TV Scoop is also teaming up with football site to host a live chat around the game using some very innovative new software from Telegent Systems. There are prizes for the best commenters. The new Telegent service will also enable users to take part in quizzes and polls and even integrate their Facebook page with the TV service via Facebook Connect.

The key question is whether systems like Twitter and Telegent, along with experiments from UK broadcasters including the BBC, start impacting on mainstream TV programming? Live events like X Factor are one thing, however if people start tweeting through Coronation Street, Eastenders or Casualty it could signal a real shift away from recorded TV back to live viewing. And what about all those US imports too? There’s very real evidence that users are tweeting through programmes like Mad Men and Glee.

Ultimately I guess viewers won’t be tweeting or chatting using their laptops. Instead their TVs will have a built in chat stream so they can keep an eye on comments while watching the programmes. And it could be more than text chat too. If you want to see the reaction of you friends to a game then you’ll soon be able to communicate with them via Skype video calls on your set. Some TV makers, like Samsung, have even started offering apps for their TV sets and there are many people working on a killer integration of chat, video and live TV.

So it looks like live TV could well become a key trend for 2010. Advertisers must be rubbing their hands with delight. No more ad skipping and a whole new way to connect with audiences.

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  • Well said, such a person should be a good sentence, or the future will be more rampant.

  • Actually this has been happening for a while with BBC Question Time on Thursday nights, using the #bbcqt hashtag. By the top of the hour it is usually in the Twitter top 10 trending topics.

    Some of us also stay up for #thisweek afterwards. Neither programme advertises the hashtag though, how do we get them to do that?

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