From 'Cougar Town' to 'Touch,' TV takes to Cyberspace

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On Tuesday, May 29, ABC's "Cougar Town" ends its season, and executive producer Bill Lawrence was determined to save his struggling series. Part of his strategy is a strong presence on Twitter, led by his own account (@VDOOZER), from which he relentlessly promotes the show.

Cablenet TBS has now picked up Season 4 of "Cougar Town" -- along with rights to air the first three seasons -- where it will join fellow network refugee Conan O'Brien, whose talk show also has a digital presence.

These days, it's hard for a show to survive without branching out into the digital space. At the recent Variety Entertainment & Technology Summit, co-located with the Digital Hollywood conference, O'Brien's sidekick, Andy Richter, discussed how he, his boss and the show's head writer oversee all the Web extras at TeamCoco.com.

It's a challenge for Richter, who doesn't consider himself part of the digital generation. "I feel like at 45 years old, I don't get it the way that 30-year-olds get it," he says.

Tim Kring, whose FOX series "Touch" ends its first season on Thursday, May 31, is a big believer in building out a show's digital infrastructure -- as he did with his NBC series "Heroes" -- and incorporating cellphone and Web technology into his storylines, as he does in "Touch." The show also has partnered with AT&T to bring users into its theme of global interconnectedness.

What Kring has done is another theme of Digital Hollywood -- "transmedia storytelling." Instead of just telling a story on one screen, elements also appear in mobile or tablet apps, YouTube videos, games and social media efforts, all linked together to create an immersive experience for fans.

Another pioneer of this is "CSI" creator Anthony Zuiker, who's seeking top talent for his digital ventures.

At the Variety summit, he talked about his pitch to them, saying, "For us, it's about, 'Look, you're not going to make a ton of money, but the material is second to none. Do you want to be a part of the future? Do you want to be in front of 50 million people on day one?'
"It's a very, very exciting time. This really is the future."
Photo/Video credit: ABC