Jason Del Rey

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Sweeney of Disney and King of “Pretty Little Liars”: Twitter Is Live TV’s Savior

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Asa Mathat / AllThingsD.com

When teens tune in to watch “Pretty Little Liars,” the ABC Family hit series produced by I. Marlene King, they are predominately doing it when the show airs live. The technology platforms most responsible for that trend? Social media, according to King and Anne Sweeney, president of the Disney/ABC Television Group who appeared onstage at D11 on Wednesday in a discussion with Kara Swisher.

“It feels like social media is creating must-see TV again,” King said today. “We feel like it’s bringing fans to watch the show live again.”

“I love the Twitter parties…you don’t get that with shows that are on Netflix,” she added. “We still love that universalness, oneness when we air live.”

“Pretty Little Liars” has taken an aggressive approach in engaging its audiences on social channels, especially Twitter. Just today, the show promised its followers that it would reveal a show spoiler if they pushed the hashtag #PLLSpoiler to the top of Twitter’s worldwide trends (Spoiler: It worked). But in addition to using Twitter as a marketing tool, the show and network also employee it for programming decisions, King said. Positive Twitter feedback to a new “hottie” on the show, for example, could lead its creators to extend his presence in the script longer than previously planned.

The show creator and TV exec both said that Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram have also played important roles in keeping the show top of mind even between seasons.

“Instagram is huge for us,” King said. “The young actors on our show are obsessed with it. They’ll Instagram anything.”

The discussion took a decidedly somber turn when Swisher broached the subject of a specific technology impacting current TV models in a different way — namely Aereo, the IAC-backed video service currently embroiled in legal battles with broadcast networks.

Asked by Swisher to comment about it, Sweeney called it “illegal, opportunistic piracy” and vowed to keep the legal battles going.

Sweeney was noncommittal about Disney’s future involvement with Hulu, in which it has a stake.

“Selling is an option,” she said. “Staying is an option.”

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