Real Fans Watch

Jared Newman at Time’s Techland had an interesting post yesterday that had me thinking about a phrase I’ve been using when talking about Twitter & TV: “Real Fans Watch!”

Jared was asking why Twitter doesn’t have some kind of “spoiler blocker” that would hide the little beasties from those of us who haven’t gotten to the tv set in time to watch the premiere of an episode of our favorite shows. (In his example, Breaking Bad.)

I have a personal reaction, a “business” reaction, and a little bit of technical knowledge to share.

First the personal reaction — which IS summed up in the phrase “Real Fans Watch.” Years ago, when I was working on Best Week Ever, those of us who loved and breathed shows like the Sopranos or Lost would pile into the office the morning after they’d air, and talk incessantly about the ins and outs of every episode. If you hadn’t watched last night — TOO BAD! The rule was “Real Fans Watch.” I still hold to that. Can’t get to the TV? You’re not a FANatic.

IF you’re really devoted to a show, I’d even go so far as to say that knowing how it ends doesn’t spoil you’re enjoyment. Fanatics love the expression, the creativity, the storytelling. And, as this year’s Olympics showed, knowing the result sometimes just heightens the enjoyment.

Now the business reasons: the reason shows like Breaking Bad can be made with high-priced, high-caliber talent like Vince Gilligan and Bryan Cranston is because they’re advertiser supported. No big reveal there. And advertisers need eyeballs at a specific date and time. Twitter helps deliver fans to the tube at a specific date and time by alerting you to the fact that a show is on the air, and in a very indirect, real way, by creating a little bit of “spoiler fear.” (And yes, I know, West Coast fans are SOL on this. That said, one of the dirty secrets of TV is that West Coast accounts for only 20-25% of the rating. East Coast rules here. That said — Lifetime offers their fans a “West Coast” button for Project Runway, and we’ll find out at the end of the season whether that was a desired feature.)

Finally, the technical knowledge: your idea of an icon to represent a spoiler is a smart one. I’ve been lobbying for an icon to voice immediate approval of something on the air. (!breakingbad)… turns out there’s a ton of technical implementation that needs to go into making that work on Twitter. The hashtag and the @reply took a long time to work their way into the Twitterverse. Feel free to get it started, Jared!

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