Social TV Conference: Meet Twitter's New Head of TV

Fred Graver Wants the Platform to Be a New TV Guide and Ratings Mechanism

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Twitter is positioning its business to a significant extent around the user engagement it drives around so-called tentpole events like the Olympics and the presidential debates, as well as regularly programmed shows. So what does the company's newly anointed head of TV do, exactly?

Fred Graver
Fred Graver
A veteran TV executive, producer and writer with MTV , VH1, NBC and the Travel Channel on his resume, among other networks, Fred Graver joined Twitter in June and characterized his job as developing the platform as a live-TV companion, a new TV Guide and a new TV rating mechanism at Ad Age 's Social Engagement/Social TV conference yesterday. He also acknowledged that part of the job is communicating with talent and urging them to use Twitter to communicate with fans.

"The dirty secret in TV is that one day you're going to get canceled, so get your million followers before then," said Mr. Graver. He noted that Neil Patrick Harris had live-tweeted the recent season premiere of "How I Met Your Mother ," and that 25 Emmy nominees had tweeted on the day of the awards last month, including actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus, from her dress fitting.

Twitter's quest to be a live-TV companion is both well-documented and well under way, and Mr. Graver punctuated it with statistics from an NBC News poll in which respondents indicated that social media made them more (and not less) likely to watch the Olympic Games. Describing the goal to make Twitter into a new TV Guide, he noted that it's already a place where fans go to discuss themes from their favorite shows and dissect the latest episodes, and that apps built on top of Twitter like Trendrr and Get Glue contribute to that discussion.

Mr. Graver did say that Twitter's execution during the Emmys could have been improved on; he said that perhaps there could have been a more tangible reward for viewers who were tweeting, like showing a leader board of top tweeters instead of just displaying the event hashtag during the broadcast.

"This is the TV producer side of me: It's really important when you're engaging with the audience that you somehow show a payoff on air," said. In terms of Twitter's role in changing how TV measurement is looked at, Mr. Graver acknowledged that he didn't have answers yet, though he indicated that the impressions generated from tweets during TV programming should somehow be part of the equation.

"I don't think it's a Nielsen or a Twitter thing. Or, do you buy on Twitter or on digital or on television," he said. "There's a whole ecosystem being described here, and we've only begun to map out that frontier."

Finally, when asked whether Twitter users were outgrowing the hashtag, Mr. Graver gave an unequivocal no, noting that they still crop up in unexpected ways. As an example, he cited Jay -Z showing up to the BET Awards this summer sporting a stylized gray suit and white shirt, which prompted the hashtag #peewee to start trending.

"The audience is still learning how to use it [hashtags]," he said.

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