Saturday, April 23, 2011

#HAIL THE HASHTAG? Is a permanent on-screen hastag coming to South African television? And will M-Net's Idols be first?

Get ready. Because its (sigh)... trending. The latest on-screen TV trend in America - a permanent on-screen hastag for Twitter displayed for the full duration of an episode just like a channel marker on your TV - might very soon be on South African television screens too.

With early studies showing that social media, just like Ramoras swimming alongside sharks, actually increase TV watching and viewership - especially live television and especially the reality TV genre - American TV channels and producers are now adding permanent on-screen hastags to the hottest shows for the full duration of an episode. With their hashtag Twitter word displayed on-screen (since viewers usually choose their own) channels and producers now want to try and herd social media interaction together as one big aggregate buzz-maker.

In America shows like Glee and American Idol now display #Glee and #Fringe and #americanidol where the collective social media stream of running interaction and comments create a shared experience and builds buzz under one suggested hashtag. Producers and broadcasters are now thinking that to provide an ''official'' hastag on-screen for the duration of a show, more social media posts will gravitate towards using the suggested hashtag and aggregate under it, instead of different ones.

With the 7th season of Idols starting in June and it being both a reality and a buzz-creator show - and with M-Net perpetually at the forefront of gimmicks and on-air experimentation - its highly probable that Idols will add a permanent on-screen hashtag - for instance #idols - to episodes when the show starts on 5 June. The same for Big Brother Amplified, or for shows on the youth channel Vuzu (DStv 123).

Presenters of local reality and magazine shows just like their overseas counterparts are already verbally directing viewers to ''follow us'' on Facebook and Twitter usually at the end of their shows. The addition of a permanent on-screen hashtag however will again push the evolution of (the clutter of) permanently displayed information on our TV screens. And it will - after it gets added - never again go away.