How Twitter is Changing Television

When show host Jeff Probst sent his first tweet in February for last season’s “Survivor” premiere, his network was not exactly keen on it.

“CBS did not like me tweeting in the beginning,” Probst says. “They were like, ‘What? No.’”

Eventually, they relented enough to say, “We’re not going to tell you not to do it, but we’re not necessarily supportive,” Probst says.

Five months later, the network was sponsoring a press day at its Radnor studios, featuring stars of three whose who rhapsodized about Twitter like it was television itself.

And the network long since learned it benefitted from tweeting. In Probst’s case, his live tweeting drove many of his followers (currently, 132,000 of them) to abandon their DVR habits to watch the show live and be part of conversation.

And it’s made a change in the longrunning reality show, Probst said at the session Tuesday.

For the 23rd season of “Survivor,” which begins Sept. 14, Probst says, “we’re doing a casting twist that was dictated almost exclusively by an informal Twitter poll.”

The question was: Which contestants would you like to see come back?

“I was just kind of testing the waters, and the response was so fast and so clear at who people liked, that we basically said that’s it,” he says. “So that is a direct impact in how we’re producing the show.”

Likewise when he once asked for new ways of dealing with hidden immunity idols, “here were like 1,200 suggestions.”

Overall, Probst says using Twitter, “has made me realize that I can be back in control of what I say, and I don’t have to go through a publicist or let somebody at a network issue a quote for me that is not even my vernacular. I can say exactly what I think.”

That said, the longtime “Survivor” host hopes to continue it as well as “do something new.

“I want to take it to the next level, and I’m working on that now,” he says. “I believe we’re in the baby steps of a truly global conversation that we’re already seeing change the world, forget about TV shows, just how it is going to impact our whole world.”

It was the hope of that impact that got Pauley Perrette of “NCIS” involved in Twitter after being vehemently against it.

“The name of my band is Stop Making Friends. It’s like a joke about the social network,” Perrette says. “I even had a whole entire YouTube video that had been seen thousands of times of me going, ‘I am not on Twitter, I am not on Facebook,’ because I kept getting impersonated all the time.”

But when a homeless shelter she was supporting raised $2.8 million in two days through social networking, she was sold on its power.

“Then I became a Tweetaholic, and I hold nothing back,” says the actress, who has 127,000 followers. “I’m so addicted to my Twitter, I feel such a sense of responsibility to my fans, I have thought before it is like: Is the rest of my life on God’s green earth going to be like this?”

For L.L. Cool J, whose Twitter followers number 1.49 million because of his long history in music before he began co-starring in “NCIS: L.A.,” it’s a way to be connected to the world, and to impart his own wisdom in epigrams and inspirational sayings.

“Having social media is akin to I guess having like radar and sonar,” L.L. says. “You see what is coming, you see what is on the horizon, you see the trends, you see what is out there floating around underneath the surface. You get to identify everything that is going on and respond to it.”

Besides that, he says, “it gives you the ability to kind of hone and mold and adapt to what is going on out there in the world and how you’re being perceived and how people are embracing what it is that you do and the products that you offer.”

L.L. Cool J figures “I have X amount of people who are interested in what I have to say, and, you know, I try to say something encouraging, but then I try to share fun stuff as well. I’ll send them a picture from a concert, or send different things.

Because these are people who have decided that they are interested in my lifestyle, what I’m about, and what I have to say. So I feel from that point of view, you know, I feel like a leader. So I treat it like that. I just lead them. That’s all. You know, I try to show love and just have fun with it.”

But it’s upending the order of things, he adds. “The way things are going, if you look at the trajectory of social media and the way we interact as human beings, privacy will be the new fame.”

Probst admired the turn of phrase. “That’s what he tweets all day. You do find yourself going, ‘Shit, that’s pretty cool.’ What does mean, though?”

“What it means is that everybody knows everything about everyone. Every little kid, everybody knows everything: ‘I went here, I did this, I did this with this person, that person, this person. Look at my friends on MySpace, look at my followers on Twitter. This is my social circle….’

“There will be a point when privacy will be the new fame,” he said. “Look at the background checks now when people go to work, how all of a sudden your social media has come into play. This is changing the rules.

“It is almost to the point where everybody will need a publicist. You know what I’m saying? They have reputation management companies, like it’s crazy.”

He was working himself up to a new tweet.

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