In the convergent media era, where social media serves as the new watercooler, networks are seeking new ways to drive online engagement onto the TV screen. The rise of television ‘after shows’— fan-driven talk shows that air immediately following popular TV programs— exemplifies this trend by creating televisual spaces for fan discourses. Initially conceived of as companion pieces to reality programming (starting with MTV’s The Hills) the after show has since expanded to include fictional “quality” programming like AMC’s Talking Dead. The after show mirrors the traditional talk show format—with a host, celebrity guests, skits, and promotional clips —while significantly revising the content to focus exclusively on post-episode analysis (with stars providing real-time reactions and behind-the-scenes tidbits). Building on the momentum of social media discussions, the after show provides a televisual forum for viewers to dissect TV content with other fans and celebrities who respond to phone calls and tweets live on-air.
While many networks have piloted after shows, not all have effectively extended viewer engagement. The successful tenure of Bravo’s TV after show Watch What Happens Live (2009- ) can be attributed in part to the synergy between Bravo’s multi-media platforms, including reality TV content, cast blogs, social media pages (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat), and web-based after-after show, to name just a few. In this clip, WWHL host Andy Cohen mediates real-time interactions between fans and The Real Housewives stars, highlighting three levels of Bravo’s convergent TV strategy: First, Cohen reads Twitter comments from Bravo stars, encouraging viewers to participate in social media discussions. Second, Cohen reads viewer questions, providing a televisual space for online fan discourses. Third, Cohen takes a viewer call about an internship, forging “real life” (if illusory) connections with the cast. This clip underscores Bravo’s desire to link TV content to social media to stars “real” lives, and offers a glimpse into the convergent TV industry strategy to combine televisual flow (keeping viewers tuned in) with interactive flow (extending and deepening engagement across media platforms).