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Character Chatter: Second Screen at a Glance

September 7, 2011

I’m old enough to remember sitting down in the living room to watch television as a family.  When I went off to college, I continued this shared experience, first with my sorority sisters and then with my friends off campus.  My gal pals would join me for wine and cheese evenings built around the viewing of Frank von Zerneck’s latest “Portrait of…” TV movie (Yes, I was quite the little hostess). Now, the solo viewer is king; everyone’s watching something different on his/her own screen.  And the exchanges I used to have by turning to my left or right have moved onto social media and fan sites.  It’s rather like those women who wax their eyebrows off and then draw them back in with a pencil.

Being a devotee of all things television, I knew I had to start taking part in the Social TV sensation.  As a fan of USA Network’s summer line-up, I selected the “Character Chatter” site as the perfect place to begin.  It had it’s pluses: I  didn’t have to dust and there were no arguments over pizza toppings.  And whatever I said was forever memorialized (the “plus” of which is TBD).  I followed up my initiation with a phone chat with Ralph Marx, VP of Business Development for Arktan (and sometime commentator on this site.)  They’re the B2B live blogging service behind “Character Chatter,” pulling together the feeds from Twitter, Facebook, and other sources into a single page per show.

As a communication consultant, I appreciated the dual effect of the site’s organization.  Fans can easily participate in the conversation using their social networking tool of choice and get a fuller picture of what’s being said by the entire community.  Better yet for true enthusiasts, the stars and members of the creative team are all social media users, so their comments end up in the feed as well.  This, as Marx pointed out to me, adds flavor to the content that was never available from my sorority sisters.

From the network’s perspective, their marketing department can better grasp the overlap and connections among comments, turning them from disparate streams into useful intel.   As Marx put it, “Social media is almost too successful. Everyone has their own favorite and it can be difficult to manage the information and gain insight into what’s being said about you.”  A site like “Character Chatter” is a neat solution to the expansion challenge.  While they won’t give out specifics, USA apparently saw an almost immediate rise in “live” ratings.  The network also saw an increased interest among fans and a huge uptick in the time viewers spent on their website.  Because of this shift, USA made a major commitment to the current redesign, which now includes high quality images so you can remember the gleam in Matt Bomer’s eyes while you try to keep yourself together until January.

Another obvious advantage over the “having friends and family to your house” model, is the gabfest continues 24×7.  I logged onto the White Collar page two weeks after the mid-season finale and found messages that were a mere 5 minutes old.  Not every remark is filled with stirring insight, I grant you.  I learned from Marx that the live feed is curated by automation, using spam and negative word filters.  These can’t stop people from repeatedly writing, “I LOVE THIS SHOW!!!!!!!!!”  or simply “AHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!” There is also a curated feed, which is sorted and rebranded by a human.  It’s easier to follow, but significantly less colorful.

I admit it’s been kinda fun to keep an eye on speculation over Max’s murder on Burn Notice and see who else missed Boris on the latest installment of Royal Pains.  I’m not about to give up my Golden Globes Party or Grand Slam Tennis with my Dad.  But I am looking forward to securing some much needed help unearthing those darn pineapples when Psych returns in October.

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