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CNN’s Piers Morgan puts Twitter to work for TV debut

With a taped interview with Oprah as the premiere episode of “Piers Morgan Tonight” on CNN on Monday night, the show’s host and staff gathered in the Presidential Suite of Mandarin Hotel in New York to watch the show’s debut.

“God, hope the tape worked,” Piers Morgan tweeted 20 minutes to air. As the broadcast got underway, he live-tweeted little quips like, “Don’t get over-excited America, but any minute now Oprah and I talk cricket.”

Beyond live-tweeting the show, Morgan’s Twitter tricks should be a case study in TV promotion. On Sunday night during the Golden Globes — the night before Morgan’s TV debut — he tweeted, “Where is Ricky Gervais? Seriously.” Then followed by, “Gervais not seen for an hour now. #whatthehellhappened.”

The tweets, along with the hashtag, set off a flurry of Twitter speculation that host Ricky Gervais was pulled from the Golden Globes’ live broadcast for incendiary jokes. The hashtag even became a trending topic. Soon thereafter, Gervais was back.

But that’s when Morgan capitalized on the moment. Gervais was already booked on Morgan’s show later in the week. Morgan tweets, “1st question when Gervais appears on @pierstonight on Thurs – what the hell did they do to you backstage for an hour? He looks haunted.” Morgan’s executive producer, @jonathanwald, also tweeted a plug.

A few days earlier, Morgan was DM’ing reporters like NY Times’ @brianstelter trying to drum up PR for the show. Stelter writes in his subsequent story previewing the show’s debut, “Sure enough, he sent this reporter a private message on Twitter last week: “Now that Oprah’s called me ‘My toughest interview for 20 years,’ shouldn’t you be interviewing me for NYT to talk about it.’”

Piers Morgan is certainly no Larry King, and for CNN, Morgan’s adeptness with social media is a big asset that goes beyond bringing his own social media followers to the party. (Just look at his Twitter account for great conversational tidbits, retweets and mentions.) For media companies shopping for talent (and producers, too), it’s a good reminder to that social media can play a significant role in the ability of a show to succeed.

Now, let’s see how he does in the ratings…

Update: “Piers Morgan Tonight” premiered to 2.1 million viewers compared to 2.36 million for Fox, 1.11 million for MSNBC. Explains New York Times’ Brian Stelter in a tweet, “That’s a strong showing by CNN, but as we always say The Day After: the ratings matter more on night #10 and on night #100.”

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