The Next Aaron Spelling? Showrunner Shonda Rhimes Is ABC’s Queen of Prime Time
Taking charge of ABC’s full Thursday night lineup By T.L. Stanley
In addition to crafting addictively over-the-top storylines with her writers, Rhimes has been particularly successful at stoking the flames of social media, creating a blueprint for the rest of the industry. The networks don’t have pockets deep enough or airtime abundant enough to heavily promote every show. That’s where savvy producers with their own social media-based campaigns come in, whipping up fans who crave behind-the-scenes extras and inside information.
Rhimes has excelled at that game from early on, notes Marc Karzen, CEO of social media analytics firm RelishMIX, by launching her own—and hyperactive—Twitter feed, hosting live viewing parties and pulling in cast members for chats with fans. “She’s writing the playbook for the future,” Karzen explains. “She’s really taken the bull by the horns—she engages with the fans and drives the conversation.”
For Scandal, a midseason replacement that launched in 2012 to less-than-stellar reviews initially, Rhimes identified and cultivated an audience via Twitter, Karzen points out. The buzz that flowed from that steady stream of digital chatter (the show generated more than 200,000 tweets per episode) helped grow the program’s viewer base.
The numbers for Scandal, a cliffhanger-happy melodrama that took off during Season 2 to become a must-see hit, are impressive. The show’s Facebook followers swelled 174 percent over the last year to 2.3 million, while Rhimes’ own Twitter audience grew 67 percent to 631,000. Washington’s Twitter account jumped 83 percent to 1.6 million followers, and the actress’ Facebook count grew by 1,790 percent to 2.9 million, per RelishMIX data.