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Starz Bows Social Media Site for New TV Series

6 Oct, 2011 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Scandalous Dirt website blurs lines between promotion of new cable TV series “Boss” starring Kelsey Grammer and interactive platform for political and news junkies

Starz Entertainment Oct. 6 launched a new interactive platform that melds promotion for new original series “Boss,” starring Kelsey Grammer, with actual political and news stories juxtaposed against non-politically correct viewer feedback via Twitter.

Grammer stars as Chicago mayor Tom Kane, who has been diagnosed with a degenerative neurological disorder but is determined to remain in power and control of those around him. “Boss” premiers Oct. 21 on Starz.

The show’s site (www.ScandalousDirt.com) features a “Top 5 Stories” section offering real updated headlines such as “Palin Alleged Drugs and Sex,” “Koch Industries Made Secret Sale to Iran, Report Says,” “Mattel, Disney, Apple Sweatshops Exposed,” “News Corp. Phone Hacking,” “Rick Perry Racial Slur” and “Chicago’s Notorious for It’s Corrupt Politicians. Meet Its Newest Politician. Kelsey Grammer on ‘Boss.’”

While the use of social media to generate buzz for a TV show or movie isn't new, creating it sepecifically for the Twitter platform is. Each story contains a link showcasing myriad real-time Twitter responses. Stories also include elements and lines that can be found in the TV show. Users sound off on the news by logging into their Twitter account.

ScandalousDirt.com, which is created and maintained by RED Interactive Agency, marks another effort by a media company looking to generate buzz and/or incremental eyeballs by engaging viewers and consumers through social media, according to Amorette Jones, executive director of consumer marketing with Englewood, Colo.-based Starz.

“It’s completely aligned with Twitter and its auto-populated so it’s constantly refreshed,” Jones said. “What is also unique for us is the integration of the story lines from the show into the site that can be shared.”

In other words, select tweets on the site will originate from both actual and fictional sources — the latter a Chicago newspaper, radio station and TV station, which all play roles in the show.

“Those tweets are going to be interrelated to a headline and scandal that will be occurring within each episode,” Jones said, adding that many headlines also will originate from and be policed by the show’s writers.

Other Dirt sections include “28,948 Buzz Worthy Conversations,” featuring the topics sure to arouse user interest: “Sex and Infidelity” (5,259 tweets); “Substance Abuse,” (3,718); “Corruption and Deceit,” (20,403); “Tom Kane and Starz Boss” (609); “Guns and Violence” (1,820); and other “Dirt” stories (1,490). Guess which Tweets are self-promotional.

Scandalous Dirt also showcases a geographical map of the United States outlining “46 Cities Where Stories Occur” (surprise: Chicago is No. 1), and an opinion poll where users can vote. Current topic: “How would you vote in the Conrad Murray trial: guilty, not guilty or unsure?”

Left to self-regulation, websites and blogs can quickly fall into unguarded rhetoric — a reality that prompted creators of ScandalousDirt.com to impose filters on key words in order to safeguard against potential legal issues, Jones said.

Indeed, during the site’s beta test, the story about Palin and alleged sex and drug use elicited a tweet from a porn site with a link to nude photos that quickly was inactivated.

“The show is not all about scandals, of course, but that is a part of the storyline of politics,” Jones said. “We see it everyday.”

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