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TV Producers, Execs on Using Social Media to Their Advantage

Hit television shows find that they need to break through the mold of traditional television and meet the viewers where they are watching – on social networks. Live-tweeting, capitalizing on “OMG” moments and targeting a younger following are all key to drawing viewers.

During a panel discussion with Variety’s executive editor Debra Birnbaum, Twitter head of TV Andrew Adashek said online platforms have affected the entire television process, including the writing stages. “People are planning from the moment they start writing the show,” he said. “When they’re shooting, they’re capturing things ahead of time and knowing that in six months or a year that they are going to need that content to help bring the audience in.”

Fox’s “Empire” came up again and again throughout the panel, as multiple panelists claimed the show to be their favorite in terms of captured moments on Twitter.

Both “Vampire Diaries” showrunner Julie Plec and Karga Seven Pictures co-founder Sarah Wetherbee were reminded through Twitter conversations that “Empire” was something that everyone was tuning in to. Plec also said Twitter had replaced the traditional watercooler talk with a national obsession of a character or show.

“I didn’t know what it was going to be and I got very busy and life went by,” she said. “And on Twitter all of a sudden every third tweet was like, ‘Oh my God, Cookie you are the best!’ …Then I realized, ‘Oh, Cookie’s on “Empire,”‘ and I told myself that I need to watch that show because I want to see what this Cookie person is all about,” recalled Plec.

Another concept that was noted on the panel was that with social media, a following takes time to build up and networks have to give a show time to live before making any sudden decisions. Adashek said for younger audiences, Twitter and television have established a relationship that can be beneficial for both parties.

“On Twitter we find that millennials, they’re more engaged, more active around television. It’s a strong part of the platform for us,” he said.

Gaumont International Television CEO Katie O’Connell said millennials should be marketed according to how they consume the content. “I think it’s really about the habits of an entire generation of people that are core-cutting,”she said.

Noting that they are okay with catching onto “Breaking Bad” years later, she added that it’s not so much a difference in demographics as it is in psychographics. “I think it’s also about that impassioned audience, that’s what we’re looking for.”

Other panelists were “Aquarius” and “Teen Wolf” executive producer Marty Adelstein and “Empire” showrunner Ilene Chaiken.

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