Next TV: Twitter’s Big (And Somewhat Unplanned) Oscar Moment

Fred Graver Explains How The Record-Breaking Celebrity-Filled ‘Selfie’ Came To Be

New York –  So, how did the “selfie” seen 'round the Twitterverse on Oscar night come to be?

According to Fred Graver (@fredgraver), head of the TV team at Twitter, the Oscar-night event, which broke Twitter’s retweet record with 3.3 million of them (while also taking the service down temporarily), was part planning, part fortuitous spontaneity.

Graver (pictured at left), the keynote speaker here Wednesday afternoon, said Twitter sat down with ABC and the show’s producers weeks before the event and discussed about 18 ideas they could try with host Ellen DeGeneres. Once everyone was on board, the final piece was to involve Samsung, which was providing tablets in the Oscars Green Room as part of its sponsorship tie-ins. Once the selfie idea was defined, the other trick was to get DeGeneres, an iPhone user, to get comfortable with the smartphone.

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But the group selfie wasn’t part of the original plan and the “rundown.” Instead, it became an impulsive moment that was captured by the social media platform. DeGeneres was set to take a traditional selfie and be done with it. Instead, she started to invite other Hollywood stars to join in, and it all snowballed from there.

And what did Samsung think of it all?  “They said they were thrilled to have been associated with a moment of such joy,” Graver said, recounting a recent meeting with Samsung ad sales.

Graver, in his keynote interview with Broadcasting & Cable editor-in-chief Melissa Grego, noted that the previous retweet record (1.7 million) was held by none other than President Barack Obama, who, as it turns out, is scheduled to appear on DeGeneres’s show on Thursday (March 20) to talk about the healthcare coverage deadline. There’s no word yet if there’s a retweet-off in the making, but the preview description does point out that “Obama and our host have proven their dance moves, their desire for good, and their Twitter skills…” 

So, there’s a chance.

Graver said  the big Oscar moment ties in well with the broader connection celebrities are making with Twitter.

“Talent very much understands that Twitter is now part of their career,” he said, adding that talent agencies are now directly engaged, asking what tools they can use to help their clients.

And it’s changing Twitter’s relationships in other parts of the TV ecosystem. After starting as a “nice little experiment," Twitter's TV linkages have  become part of the industry’s business plan. An example of that occurred right after the Super Bowl, when Esurance offered Twitter users the chance to win $1.5 million by tweeting out the hashtag: “#EsuranceSave30,” with the winner later revealed on Jimmy Kimmel Live!

“We’ve been lucky at Twitter that we’ve had these moments,” Graver said.

Twitter is also fashioning itself as a TV tune-in aid, whether it’s about the SeeIt partnership with Comcast or its work with Nielsen to find out the direct and correlational effect Twitter conversations have on TV viewership.

And more may be coming at the upfronts. “We are part of the discussion,” Graver said, but didn’t elaborate further other than to say that showmakers have recognized that they must “have a Twitter presence.”



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