"Pretty Little Liars" executive producer Marlene King, center,… (Asa Mathat / All Things Digital )
In the Twitterverse, it looked like a juicy spoiler -- offered up less than two weeks before the June 11 fourth season premiere of ABC Family's "Pretty Little Liars."
Marlene King, the show's executive producer, turned to the social network to reveal that the mysterious Queen of Hearts would be unmasked during the first episode of the new season. She promised the tantalizing disclosure as a reward for generating enough online buzz to make a hashtag related to the show -- #PLLSpoiler -- a trending topic on Twitter.
ABC Family orchestrated the online Twitter frenzy to coincide with King's and Disney/ABC Television Group President Anne Sweeney's appearance Wednesday at the All Things Digital conference in Rancho Palos Verdes. It was designed to demonstrate, in real time, how passionate and engaged the fans are about the show -- as well as the symbiotic relationship between TV and social media.
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"We have a lot of OMG moments, a lot of jump off the couch moments for our fans that they love to talk about and tweet about," King said.
Twitter is helping to fuel live viewing of such TV shows as "Pretty Little Liars" or ABC's soapy drama "Scandal." That's good news for advertisers, because viewers can't skip commercials as they would with shows recorded on the DVR and viewed later.
"It feels like social media is creating must-see TV again," King said. "Our fans want to have this massive Twitter party together on Tuesday night, when we air. They don’t want to come to the party late."
"Pretty Little Liars" generated close to 8.3 million tweets over the course of the first quarter of the year, according to ABC.
Sweeney said social media keeps a show's fans engaged, even when it's not airing.
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"The benefit to the network -- and the real benefit to the show -- is the fact that it's 12 months a year, that conversation about 'Pretty Little Liars' goes on all the time," Sweeney said. "It doesn't matter that they're on hiatus, because the story continues."
Sweeney was asked why Hulu's media owners are investigating the sale of the Internet TV service, which attracts more than 22 million monthly users and 4 million subscribers to the expanded library available on Hulu Plus.
The 5-year-old site is jointly owned by Walt Disney Co., News Corp., and NBCUniversal parent Comcast Corp., and has attracted a number of interested first-round bidders.
"We have many options with Hulu," said Sweeney, a Hulu board member who said the network remains committed to providing its TV content to the site.
Sweeney said Hulu helped broaden the audience for ABC's TV shows, bringing new viewers to its programs. Pressed for why, then, the owners are soliciting bids, Sweeney offered a noncommittal response.