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‘Talking Dead,’ ‘@midnight’ Help Chris Hardwick Lay Claim To Interactive TV Crown

Nerdist makes fans a part of ‘@midnight’ and ‘Talking Dead’

If Chris Hardwick isn’t the king of interactive media, he certainly has a claim to the crown. The founder of Nerdist Industries has been a part of the online world for about as long as it has been possible to make a living doing so. And this year, he has two Emmy nominations to show for it.

Both “@midnight With Chris Hardwick” and “Talking Dead” (pictured) are up for Interactive Emmy awards — yet the two programs couldn’t be more different.

Comedy Central’s “@midnight” is a game show, built around the online events of the social-media world. Rather than recycling content, each of the show’s various social-media channels offers unique content. Fan art, hashtags and more are incorporated into the show. Meanwhile, “Talking Dead” uses a model that’s more closely related to a radio talk show, with calls from guests to discuss the just-concluded episode of AMC’s “The Walking Dead.”

Both, though, bring the interactive and traditional broadcast worlds a little closer together, something Hardwick says he believes is the future of entertainment.

“People try to pit them against each other,” he says. “One’s not better than the other. They’re complementary. Traditional entertainment was a monologue with the audience. Now, entertainment is more of a two-way conversation.”

Hardwick says all of the nominees in the interactive category have done tremendous work at bridging that gap. He credits Jimmy Fallon for completely reinventing “The Tonight Show” and John Oliver for carving out a unique voice in online and traditional programming.

The common theme that makes all the interactive elements of the nominated shows work, he says, is everyone wastes moments of our day on exactly the sort of stuff the shows are focusing on.

“I look at Web content and social media as how we grout our day now,” he says. “It’s in between everything else. In between important things you’re looking at stuff online, watching weird videos [or] checking out Reddit.”


‘Last Week Tonight With John Oliver’
Oliver’s show was launched with online in mind, quickly establishing presences on YouTube, Facebook and other social media channels. It has launched several successful hashtag campaigns, like #NotMyChristian (protesting the casting of Jamie Dornan in “Fifty Shades of Grey”) and #JeffWeCan (rallying against Big Tobacco). His call to action on Net Neutrality brought about more than 45,000 comments to the FCC’s Website, which overwhelmed the servers.

Additionally, the show has offered raw footage of bits (like “Real Animals, Fake Paws”), allowing fans to create their own videos. The show also produces exclusive video content on the Web.


‘Saturday Night Live: SNL 40
“SNL” may have been a bit slow in truly adopting to the interactive age, but it caught up in a big way this year. As the anniversary show neared, guest star announcement videos hit Facebook and there were Twitter Q&As with performers. It was one of the first shows to use the Meerkat app. It ran several exclusive clips that had been cut for time online. And the “SNL 40” app contained 40 years of content, with thousands of sketches and a personalization and recommendation engine to suggest clips.


‘The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon’
Fallon has long had a keen grasp on how to build an online following, a skill he brought with him when he took over “The Tonight Show.” Along with the usual social media outlets (including an incredibly active Tumblr page and more than 2.8 million followers on Twitter), the show offers both a website and an app that let fans submit content for interactive challenges that might be used on air and play Fallon-themed games. Both also offer a behind-the-scenes look at the show.

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