MEDIA & ADVERTISING – THE NEW YORK TIMES
By BRIAN STELTER
Shows on every major network have tapped Twitter for plotlines and punch lines. This month even Homer Simpson got in on the act, punishing Bart by telling him to tweet his every action “even though I don’t know what Twitter is, and have no desire to find out.”
But Fox didn’t post Bart’s messages online. Showtime, the cable channel, is trying to exploit that gap between TV and the Internet as the hospital series “Nurse Jackie” returns for a second season this month. Beginning in the season’s second episode, the Dr. Cooper character, played by Peter Facinelli, will be shown posting on Twitter, and the character’s comments will show up in real time on a Twitter account, called @DoctorCoop.
The account, whose posts come from the “Nurse Jackie” writing staff, is already warming up; “a tweet a day keeps the doctor okay,” it said last week.
Non-Twitter users may wonder what the fuss is about. For Showtime, it is about turning the onscreen action into a marketing device.
“We want the story to extend beyond the half-hour or hour that it lives on air and become ubiquitous with your life,” said Robert Hayes, Showtime’s senior vice president and general manager for digital media.
On “Nurse Jackie,” the posting will be subtle and seem natural, Mr. Facinelli said. In one scene, Dr. Cooper spots something unusual at the hospital, grabs his phone and walks away. His post isn’t seen or heard, “but people know what I’m doing,” Mr. Facinelli said. Dr. Cooper’s posts will include photos taken by the actor.
Rather than uploading all the TV references in a batch, as the CBS drama “The Good Wife” did in advance of a recent episode that featured Twitter, the tweets will be timed to the East Coast showing of each episode.
Richie Jackson, an executive producer of “Nurse Jackie,” said Mr. Facinelli’s own real-world Twitter identity “was a bit of an inspiration for us.” At a brainstorming session in the writer’s room last fall, one person observed that nearly 1.5 million people subscribed to Mr. Facinelli’s personal tweets, and one of the show’s directors, Paul Feig, said he had about 800,000 followers. “These numbers were mind-boggling to me,” Mr. Jackson said.
Showtime did not say how many followers it hoped to attract through the effort, although Mr. Facinelli said jokingly, “If he gets more followers than me, I’m going to be upset.”