What was the deal with this week's episode of Glee? And we're not talking about Will Schuester's questionable math skills or Holly Holiday's take on Adele. Nope, we were wondering about that bug at the bottom of the screen that read "#Glee" throughout the entire show.
Get used to it. Although the TV screen is already crowded — with network logos, news crawls and promo messages routinely popping up throughout a program — broadcast and cable networks are now starting to add Twitter hashtags to the bottom of their shows.
"We've noticed shows like Glee and Idol trend while the show is on, but fans often use different hashtags," says Fox marketing president Joe Earley. It's true: While some fans might have been using "#Glee" in their Twitter posts, others might have been using "#Gleeks" or "#WhiteRappers." Says Earley: "We thought if we provided the official hashtags, then more posts would aggregate."
Earley adds that Fox experimented with the graphics "so they'd be noticeable to those who use them, but not irritating to those who don't." Fox began the practice last week with Fringe, and has also started putting hashtags at the bottom of the screen on Glee, Bones and the new Christian Slater comedy Breaking In.
Such a move was probably inevitable, as social networking has already proven to be a help in driving viewers to watch TV as it's airing (rather than later on a DVR). NBC next week launches NBC Live, a whole site devoted to promoting its shows via social media, while CBS just recently held its own "Tweet Week" devoted to its shows.
Comedy Central jump-started the hashtag trend last month during the Comedy Central Roast of Donald Trump, which powered the channel to its most-watched Tuesday in history on March 15. Comedy Central credited some of that success to its decision to run a "#trumproast" hashtag at the bottom of the screen throughout the special; the channel said it was used more than 27,000 times on Twitter during the telecast. And not all of those Tweets had to do with Trump's hair.