MTV has always been about identifying the hottest trends at the moment (or even better, before) they permeate mainstream pop culture. Now with its live awards shows, including next week's Video Music Awards, the network is striving to engineer and cultivate those instances as quickly as humanly (and machine algorithmically) as possible.
During the 2012 VMAs, which air on Sept. 6, MTV will again employ its Twitter Tracker tool to surface moments from the show that are generating the most chatter on the social network. However, instead of finding out the next day that Beyoncé’s baby bump announcement had set tweeting records (8,868 tweets per second), MTV and Twitter plan to identify those buzzy bits immediately as the show airs—essentially enabling that watercooler chatter to happen while one is still watching TV.
So, if Kanye and Jay-Z smooch, if Lady Gaga shows up as a man dressed in clothes made out of celery, or if Charlie Sheen shows up sober, fans will know right away that Twitter is blowing up through a series of second-screen visualization tools. And of course, they can elect to join the conversation as well.
MTV has been urging fans to tweet during the VMAs since 2006. The Twitter Tracker was born in 2007. “We’ve always loved the notion of our audience [being] interactive with entertainers,” said Mike Scogin, vp of wireless for MTV Mobile at MTV Networks.
Over the years, MTV has brought more of those moments to the small screen. But with the explosion of real-time social TV interaction, MTV has looked to drive more fans to its Web destinations with features such as a digital seating chart from the VMAs, where various artists' seats will light up as more viewers tweet about them. Plus, MTV is planning at least five Twitter Tracker mentions during this year’s show.
“Our thinking now is, let's try to guide the conversation more," said Scogin. "And we want to be able to tell the audience during the show: ‘Here is that moment you’re going to remember.’”
For its part, Twitter says that its technology has improved to the point where its partners and viewers can know almost instantly when activity on the platform tied to a particular TV moment is percolating. “That can be profoundly interesting,” said Chloe Sladden, Twitter's director of content and programming. “We’ve seen with the Olympics, award shows, this 360-degree experience of Twitter and TV. And we’re starting to see how that changes the TV experience, when things get additive meaning.”
MTV has signed Verizon to sponsor this year’s Twitter Tracker.