This Sunday is the season finale of series four of Mad Men, and the web is alive with the sound of tributes and ‘best of the series’ video clips, including spoilers if you’ve not seen the entire run yet.
Unless you’re in the UK, that is, in which case you’ll be watching episode seven of 13 and the spoilers could really hurt your enjoyment of this remarkable series. The start of the series may have been brought forward in the UK, but we’re still too far behind. In today’s social media world, the narrative is just not as powerful when the story is out of sync in different parts of the world with a (fairly) common language and culture – it is diluted by spoilers and web-chatter.
True event TV benefits from Twitter and the Twitterati show fans of Britain’s Got Talent, the X Factor and the Inbetweeners offer great examples of tweet chat from the sofa. A great way to pull in more followers is to use show hashtags and demonstrate sharp wit that can be retweeted. True entertainment brand-love usually has a crowd that engages with Twitter. But it is hard to engage properly when a global source like Twitter is moving faster than the shows its users love. For narrative TV brands like Mad Men to keep up, they need to be shown as close to simultaneously as can be achieved to avoid dilution.
For the next series of Mad Men, mind you, they will need all the PR and web-chatter they can muster just to achieve the amount of coverage the show gets in the UK at the moment, as it will debut for the first time on a Sky subscription channel, alongside all of the output from HBO. I suspect many more people will be driven to file sharing, not only to avoid having the narratives of their favourite shows spoiled before they’ve seen them but also to avoid paying fees for what was previously free to view.
And now, a sneak preview of Mad Men’s radical new direction for season five.