For years, “American Idol” has been one of the most popular shows on American television. It’s also one of the most interactive; how many other shows – except various live music reality competitions – allow viewers to have a say in the outcome of each episode, after all? To kick things up a notch, the Fox series will become just that little bit more interactive, as viewers gain the ability to participate in on-screen polls via Twitter.
The New York Times’ Brian Stelter broke the story that, as of Wednesday, producers of the show would invite comment on the show in real time – or, as close to it as possible, considering the time zone delay for those in different regions of the country. Fox reportedly plans to repeat the polls in each broadcast, allowing for different results depending on geography, via on-screen questions for viewers to respond to using the micro-blogging network.
“Graphics on this Fox singing competition will include questions like ‘Do you agree with the judges tonight?’ and two hashtags with differing answers,” Stelter wrote. “Viewers with Twitter accounts, if they want to participate, will post a comment with one of the two hashtags, and the network and its production partner, FremantleMedia, will update the graphic almost instantly as the results come in. They say it will look like an online tug of war.”
The idea, it appears, is to increase the appeal of watching Idol live, as opposed to saving to for DVR viewing at a later time. “Part of the objective is to say, ‘The best possible experience is when you watch it live,” Fox’s president of digital, David Wertheimer, told the NYT. “Ultimately, you can see how this dynamic experience could potentially influence the show in real time.”
Many network shows have tried to leverage the social-stickiness of their programmings before – The CW’s “Vampire Diaries” has famously found some level of success doing so – and it’s possible that this kind of experiment is exactly the kind of thing that could give Idol the bump it’s needed … especially if the producers go to the extent of allowing viewer tweets to appear onscreen. If we can have live tweets appearing during the presidential debate, why not, right?
In order for it to fully have the intended impact, however, the interaction would require viewers to input more than simply voting in a meaningless poll. Instead of asking whether or not viewers agree with the judges, why not place Twitter votes in with the already-established phone votes to judge whether or not certain singers make it to the next episode?