Say Goodbye To Split Time-Zone Broadcasts And Hello To "The Twitter Hour"

[Written September 2009]

One of the things that people love to do on Twitter is talk about the TV shows they're watching, while they're watching them. On the face of it you'd think the networks and their executives would be ecstatic over this phenomenon. Theoretically, as Twitter users see the people they follow talking about what they're watching there's actually a decent chance the audience for the show in question actually grows in size. And that's probably exactly what does happen - for live events that is.

On the other hand, in the case of syndicated programming that runs at different times depending on your time zone, Twitter is wrecking TV shows for people in the western US. I'm noticing a growing number of tweets from people in the Mountain and Pacific time zones either pleading with their followers not to tweet about particular shows and/or complaining about spoilers that eventually do appear in their streams. Is it possible that the networks might actually end up seeing a dip in ratings because of these Twitter spoilers? Right now it's probably nothing more than a rounding error in terms of overall viewership, but as the adoption of Twitter among the general public accelerates this could actually become an issue.

It's far too early to tell what effect Twitter is going have on TV viewership over time. But there's a good chance that Twitter could drive the elimination of split broadcasts of reality shows like American Idol and popular serials like Mad Men. Another possibility is the emergence of a single marquee hour during the week specifically dedicated towards aggregating the largest possible live audience for programming that lends itself to a shared national TV/Twitter experience. 

I call it "The Twitter Hour". It starts at 10pm Eastern / 7pm Pacific, and it might just happen. Stay tuned .....