Discovered a gem today – someone on YouTube posted the original Muppets show pitch to CBS.
In just over two-and-a-half minutes, Jim Henson produced one of the best TV pitches I’ve seen (I’m biased because I grew up on this show), and must have been a hard sell considering it’s a primetime series starring puppets. Today, of course, he would have needed to include a blurb about the digital, cross-media plans. Would he have called us digital lovers egg-heads or ”Freaky long-haired dirty cynical hippies”?
In Cannes recently, a number of top execs gathered to learn everything there is to know about social television – the act of adding the social networking experience to TV watching. Think: adding a hashtag to your live event. Twitter UK’s top exec told the attendees that social television is happening, whether they want it to or not. This is true, but maybe the focus should shift slightly.
As the industry works to better personalize the broadcast experience for its viewers, from adding full length content on their own websites to selling their catalogue rights to Netflix, there will be an increased marketing challenge to help audiences find their programs. Why? Because for those of us without cable, it’s challenging to know what shows to watch because there’s no lead-in from a top rated show, or because programmers are selling preroll ad spaces to legitimate companies, not filling it with in-house advertising to promote their latest show (for the most part).
I find my shows by listening to podcasts, reading tweets (beyond a Get Glue check-in), or overhearing what colleagues are watching. I’m more compelled to watch a show when I see most people on my Twitter feed are tuned in versus seeing a big box ad for the program. In fact, seeing everyone watch a program live makes me twinge a little for ye olde days of cable because there’s a community building on social media I can’t be a part of because I can’t see the show. I’m missing out.
So, how do you do start a social TV campaign?
- take part in some social listening. What are people saying on Twitter or Facebook about you? About your competition? Gather the data and think up a fun angle to build a community. There are free and paid-for ways to gather this type of data, from Google Alerts to customized packages.
- don’t ask your coordinator to handle your social TV just because he/she is always on Facebook. Hire a professional and check their credentials. Have they created a social media campaign before? Do they understand and take part in social TV?
- Don’t rely only on Get Glue, Miso or other social TV check-in sites. They’re good for creating a reminder to watch, but take the community to the next level now that you know they’re tuning in.
- Let the conversation happen organically – viewers can sense a fake tweet from a mile away. If your staff is writing tweets to support your program, be 100% transparent.
- Concerned about people revealing spoilers? Those without cable are used to hearing the ending of shows – doesn’t mean we’re not going to still watch it. In fact, sometimes letting your fans leak the spoilers results in more people watching.
- Keep your fans interested by holding fun hashtag games on Twitter. Ru Paul’s Drag Race asks its fans to come up with ’70s drag names between broadcasts, for example.
- Don’t rely on contests to build your community. People who enter contests tend to jump in and out without full engagement. Make it rewarding to talk about your show with retweets and engage them in conversations.
Shaw Canada recently signed a deal for Get Glue in Canada to check-in to Canadian shows such as Top Chef Canada and Real Housewives of Vancouver. Personally, I’m surprised it took this long for a deal to happen. The most interesting side effect, however, is the international attention it’s drawing to Canadian formats and the insights it’s sharing.
Top Chef Canada, of course, if the north-of-the-border equivalent to Top Chef in the States. It has a strong following in Canada already, and the Get Glue connection is helping fans speak to each other. More interesting are the number of comments from those in the U.S. asking when they can watch the show.
While there’s not an overwhelming demand, there’s now awareness that the format exists in Canada, and international fans want a chance to see it and watch it online. This is great ammunition for the TV distributor.
With the right amount of research and a establishing strong competitive review basics, Get Glue, other entertainment based check-in apps, and social media channels tell TV producers and distributors a lot about the fans of their show. There’s even a YouTube series featuring a group of friends watching and reacting to Downton Abbey. This is data that’s accessible, sometimes cheeky, and can speak to how you decide to sell your program internationally, promote the show on your channel or approach character development for the next season.
Social media listening can be challenging to manage, but there are some external companies such as Canada’s Sysmos that can filter out useful information. Having a person dedicated to reviewing your social data on a regular basis – both TV shows you’re in charge of and the competition- helps give you an edge and keeps you in touch with the end-user – your fans.
This one-hour video highlights how some television companies sync their TV content with apps downloaded on a mobile. If you don’t have time to watch it right now, I’ve got some highlights below, and a tip on how to make it work for your audience:
The most popular new app technology that syncs a handheld with a TV show is Nielsen’s Media Sync. This technology created buzz last February when ABC launched its Grey’s Anatomy app, where users were encouraged to open the app while watching the episode.
How it works
Using Nielsen’ audio watermark, which embeds audio triggers throughout a TV show to gather Nielsen television ratings, show content can be picked up by the microphones on smartphones to launch episode-specific activities, such as behind the scene footage, polls, and other additional content.
The video above shows two different examples of the application, and it does present a lot of opportunities to allow your audience to easily interact with the content, which is important because Yahoo! reported in January 2011 that 86% use their mobile while watching television.
How to Make this Work for Your TV Show
To make an app like this work with your TV show means considering the user experience and providing value for the interactivity.
This type of application seems like a natural fit for sporting events or live reality shows, but what can be accomplished to engage the user of a dramatic series like Grey’s Anatomy beyond providing trivia and poll questions?
As this technology grows, content creators and TV producers need to understand how the content they put into this application will be used by the user, and identify what will make their viewers want to participate each time the show is broadcast.
Producers and broadcasters must also be willing to admit when this type of interactivity may not be a natural fit for their TV program. To maximize this potential (or recognize its usefulness early), it’s important to consider the content implications during the development and scriptwriting phase, in order to properly exploit its opportunities. By engaging in this technology at the earliest stage, there are opportunities to create your own audio watermarks to make the audience do something with their iPad and create a truly interactive experience.
This post from @kevinrose (founder of Digg.com ) suggests television will never be the same after Apple launches its rumoured $99 set-top box. From a consumer POV, this device or the new Google TV may check all of the boxes for those people who want to cut their TV cable cord (see my earlier blog post about my experiences without cable) but a game changer? Read the comments on his blog to get a glimpse of the doubters, and here are some further considerations I’d like to hear more opinions on:
- Programming costs a lot of money to make. $100K per half hour is considered cheap. After Apple gets it cut, how many episode purchases from consumers will need to be made in order for the producer to break even, and who will fight for the international programming distribution rights?
- Broadly speaking, successful television programming in Canada is made with funds provided by the government and cable companies, who are mandated to reinvest some dollars into the local industry. To get access to this funding, a broadcaster also needs to invest in the TV program. The broadcaster makes its money for content from advertising dollars. Like it or not, reducing the power and influence of cable companies such as Rogers, Bell, Shaw, etc., as well as the broadcaster and the advertisers will greatly diminish the funding available to television producers to create new products for both linear TV and online (unless, of course, Apple and Google are mandated to invest in local programming and are considered by the CRTC as ‘cable company’).
- Broadcasters want to be in this multi-screened space and are investing additional financial and people resources to make it happen. Given the extra resources it takes to put broadcasted episodes on third party content aggregators such as Apple, profit (if any) is invested back into making this content available on digital media. The industry might be willing to play with AppleTV and GoogleTV if that’s what consumers want, but in the end, each broadcaster and cable company would rather create their own walled garden for maximum return on investment.
- This tweet from Modern Family creator, Steve Levitan (@stevelevitan) brings up a good point. It’s not only broadcasters and cable companies who want a return on their investment.
It’s about choice. If anything, Apple TV and GoogleTV will help offer new choice to the user, but will it actually change the industry forever?
What do you think? Will the cable industry crumble when these devices launch, or are there other examples pointing to why Apple TV will be just another player in the marketplace?
Adobe Media Player just announced a deal with Sony, allowing those who download the player to watch full movies such as Ghostbusters and complete TV shows such as 90210. OK- it’s not all retro programming. There’s CBS programming, Food Network stuff and Daily Show with Jon Stewart. That’s a little exciting. Everything is ad supported, and that’s just fine by me if it keeps the cost to me at $0. What might be better is an option to pay for the programming to ensure no ads, but perhaps that will come.
No, wait. What might be better is if I was able to watch the programming view the television programming I selected in the player. Wanting to see a clip of the Daily Show, I watched an AT&T commercial and then received a message “this video is not available in your country.” (add: I can watch movies effortlessly, it seems – Hello Ghostbusters.
Coming from the business side, I know the digital rights issues are complicated for Canadians, but speaking from the consumer side, this is getting annoying. Our neighbours to the south are getting loads of opportunities to watch programming watch television programming on various screens, and while things are improving (in that I can pay for series on iTunes), it’s not fast enough. Fortunately, I’m not the only one who feels this way.
Even when things are available in this country, consumers sometimes still feel cheated. Read the comments on iTunes for Daily Show. It is now available in Canada. Yet the pricing structure is not the same as in the States. Subscribers in America can pay a flat rate for a season ($9.99 for 16 eps), Canadians aren’t offered a pass and pay $32 to watch the same stuff. All of the comments are begging for the same pricing structure.
What’s the solution? Is it too late? Will Canada keep playing catch up? Love to hear theories…
(speaking of iTunes, Dr. Horrible’s three episodes are the top three video purchased downloads in Canada, even when the series was free on the site for a limited time – next step? DVD.)
The short speech by Here Comes Everybody author Clay Shirky from the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco is brilliant. Why? It explains the shift in audience media interaction in a light and funny way. And it’s a good first-post for my blog.