How Twitter Changed Televised Events in 2016


One of the major news stories of 2016 in the digital world was Twitter’s battle for survival. Twitter endured layoffs, speculation about takeovers, and criticisms of its business model. And yet, Twitter is still standing. Its ability to give brands a platform for innovation may have something to do with the company’s continued relevance. A perfect example is how Twitter has shaped live television.

Back in the day, late night talk show host David Lettermen dedicated a segment of his show to the “CBS Mailbag,” where he’d entertain the audience with viewer letters commenting on a range of topics. Live tweeting for televised events is the modern version of viewer mail, and it’s being used more often on TV to engage audiences and make them part of the conversation. Here are three notable examples from 2016 that illustrate how Twitter can engage an audience in a live setting:

Building Anticipation and Capturing Excitement: The Emmy Awards

Every year, millions tune into Emmy Award festivities several hours before the awards show actually starts, eagerly anticipating the arrival of celebrities and itching to know whose fashion creations they’re wearing. The Emmy Awards have noticed this building interest in what happens before the show and have encouraged TV viewers to tweet about their experiences. During the ceremonies themselves, the Emmy Awards also build on the momentum of the Red Carpet by encouraging watchers to experience the live-tweeted event through pop culture media outlet, Celebuzz. Following along with #emmys enables Twitter users to hear from the stars themselves, get glimpses backstage, and personally congratulate award winners just after receiving their Emmy.

By organizing live-tweeting during the Emmy Awards, Celebuzz overcomes the detachment typical of watching TV as a one-way experience for viewers.

Curating Thursday Night Football on NFL Network

The NFL, fighting declining TV ratings, is rethinking what it means to watch a football game on TV. Starting with the 2016 season, the NFL has been offering via Twitter a live video stream of games. The second-screen experience is accompanied by a stream of customized football content, curated for Twitter users by the site’s algorithm. Users can access the live game feed anywhere they’re running Twitter, including smart phones, browser windows and apps for smart TVs.

Developers hope to make the experience even more personalized for individual users. When was the last time you watched TV with commentary that speaks directly to you?

Giving Context for a Live Conversation: The Presidential Debates

The 2016 presidential debates marked a new development: Twitter was actually involved in the debates, as live tweets and questions were being fed to moderator Lester Holt during the proceedings. The content was human-driven instead of curated by Twitter’s algorithm: the company’s head of news and government, Adam Sharp, personally sifted through the tweets and decided which to present to Holt. In turn, Holt was given full discretion on whether to use the information during the conversations.

Twitter turned the live debates on its head, providing context so that the participants could speak more to the American people – rather than only to each other.

In 2017, Twitter will continue to face challenges, most notably monetizing its business most effectively, but its impact on live events will continue to be felt. Meanwhile, how have you integrate Twitter into your TV experience?

Image source: Twitter

We Love Live®. For a complimentary 30-minute consultation on how to build your brand and inspire an audience through events and communications, please contact Brian Duffy by calling 630.427.4235 or by emailing


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