Category Archives: TV

#SocialTV – The Civil War Rages On

I wrote the essay below last month as part of my interview process with Bluefin Labs in Cambridge, MA. I’m THRILLED to announce that I’ve since accepted a position with them as Associate Marketing Manager/social media wizard and I now spend my days immersed in the world of social TV analytics. I adore it.

Anyways, I’ve been meaning to post this so here you go…enjoy. I’d love to hear your thoughts, and don’t be afraid to challenge what I’ve laid out! 

The TV industry is in the midst of a civil war. The players have failed to collectively and cooperatively adapt to the explosion of mobile technologies and time-shifted, streaming content. Video-on-demand has caused a significant decrease in the amount of available ad space, and as advertising has been a financial tent pole of the industry for decades, this is a problem.

The result is a full-fledged war with independent distributors. Netflix, once applauded for its excellent library of network content, has been unable to renew contracts with key suppliers. The decrease in availability of popular content is upsetting a customer base that has quickly become accustomed to getting TV wherever, whenever, and however they want it. The advent of social media has enabled consumers to voice their opinions and concerns publicly – and they’re ready for someone to start listening. If the TV industry wants to remain an integral part of daily life, it needs to stop fighting and tune in. The opportunity for the evolution of both broadcast and advertising models has arrived via social media.

The current TV landscape, filled with on-screen hashtags and second screen apps, encourages social engagement around content. Self-elected focus groups are emerging on Facebook and Twitter, with viewers voicing their honest opinions about show storylines and brand advertising. Companies like Bluefin Labs, Trendrr, and Social Guide are analyzing this social media data and making custom reports available. This data can be harnessed by the industry to create unprecedented engagement and loyalty around content.

Reality TV and game shows are already doing this to some extent with online voting, but that merely scratches the surface of what’s possible. The future of TV depends on an overarching model where network and ad content are driven by social engagement.

By allowing viewers to change or even create show storylines via social media comments, creators can develop pre, during, and post show content, keeping audiences engaged longer. This gives viewers a vested interest in watching a show in real time. Knowing that their opinion and feedback are being recognized will increase loyalty, but time-shifted content is here to stay so further adaptation is needed.

Until recently, viewers accepted commercials as a necessary evil in the television world. Now, mobile, on-demand, and time-shifted content threatens this advertising model. Platforms like Netflix give viewers an ad-free entertainment experience, which frustrates advertisers, and their discontent is causing the networks to pull top streaming content from independent providers in an effort to maintain funding.

The TV industry is missing an opportunity for cooperation here. By focusing on tailoring advertising to the consumer based on what they’re watching and what they’re saying online, the industry can deliver a uniquely personal brand experience, regardless of delivery medium. Relevant advertising will be better received by the consumer, even if included in time-shifted content.

Independent platforms like Hulu and YouTube are already doing this with “choose-your-own-ad” options before shows. The industry needs to agree upon a model similar to this for all platforms and distributors. Better-targeted media buys within this model are possible, based on the demographical data provided by social media that reveals what brands certain show audiences are talking about online.

The data is there, the technology is in place… so what’s holding the TV industry back? My best guess is fear. They’re clinging to old broadcast and advertising models because they are “tried and true.” In doing so, they’re ignoring the honest opinions of millions of consumers who are dying to be heard. If TV wants to get out of its rut, they’ve got to start listening. Because you see, it’s all about human connection. “TV is the most powerful medium in the world. It fulfills basic human needs: it informs, connects us socially, and creates incredibly powerful emotions.” (James McQuivey, Forrester Research, at Hill Holliday’s TVNext Summit, 2011)

By taking the social currency of TV and blending it with feedback from social media, the television industry has a chance to create personal experiences for audiences based on true interaction between content creators and viewers. If key players of the TV industry can stop fighting long enough to listen to consumers, they will discover a symbiotic world where content creation, distribution, and advertising blend to create a satisfying and profitable viewing experience.

INSIDE: A Social TV Experience

I hadn’t heard much about this project, so I only took a few glances this afternoon. But when it was still going strong at 8pm I had to watch the trailer.

The INSIDE page on Facebook says:

Inside consists of film, videos and social media interactions. These pieces will live organically on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. But you can also see all highlights and films in one place at http://www.theinsideexperience.com/, as events happen.

Intel and Toshiba present a Social Film experience, from the director of “Disturbia,” starring Emmy Rossum and You.

Christina is a tough, resilient, 24-year old girl. She’s been trapped in a room. She has a laptop. And she needs your help to get out.

The website keeps going down (didn’t they anticipate the traffic?)

From a glance, it seems like Facebook has been far more engaged that Twitter on a pure numbers basis, but there’s still a lack of general buzz.

Just over 600 followers on Twitter. Really? (As of 8:30pm EST)

Christina’s first activity was three days ago. I didn’t hear about it until the first “episode” premiered today.

Conclusion: I love the idea, and I like the level of commitment they’re putting into this, but why isn’t there more of a following? Is it just early? The whole thing didn’t seem to be advertised too much (I like to think I would’ve at least heard SOMETHING about it before now).

Why is it sponsored by Intel and Toshiba?

Can Social Media Save Live TV?

This article first appeared on The Next Great Generation on July 12, 2011.

Until recently, I had serious doubts about the survival of TV as we know it. With the Internet so ingrained in daily life, and platforms like Hulu and Netflix offering an abundance of content on-demand, I couldn’t see the network television concept being sustained. Then I bought an iPad.

Like many users, I’ve been blown away by the “second screen” experience with the iPad. I use it almost constantly while watching TV, most often to monitor Twitter or Facebook. This newfound addiction spurred a realization: it’s way harder for you to engage with social media if you’re watching DVR’d content.

One of the best things about recorded content is the ability to skip commercials and watch shows at your leisure. But commercials provide the necessary downtime for reading and posting on social media platforms. Increasingly, actors, producers, and writers are live-tweeting with their fans. Because more conversations about TV are happening on Twitter and Facebook, spoilers are everywhere (especially if the spoilers abound on Twitter and Facebook – and very especially if the DVR content you’re watching is time-shifted just a few hours.)

When you add all of these factors up, it’s hard to argue that social media could save live television. A June 29 report from eMarketer supports this.

The report states:

When it comes to socializing TV in real time, Twitter has emerged as the leader. TV networks have begun to insert hashtags on-screen in an effort to bring real-time conversations together under a common banner, and encouraging actors and other talent to live-tweet to boost engagement.

A few months ago I wrote about how Scrubs/Cougar Town Creator Bill Lawrence used social media to engage fans and build buzz before Cougar Town’s spring finale. After having a few Twitter conversations with Bill himself, and after the ensuing (star-struck) excitement, I now believe absolutely that socialTV is going to revolutionize the way we experience entertainment. GigaOM blogger Janko Roettgers even wonders that if Twitter was as popular in 2006 as it is now, could it have saved shows like Arrested Development?

This graph from eMarketer shows that when Survivor host Jeff Probst started live-tweeting during episodes, Twitter activity around the show spiked. Social media and TV are colliding and fans totally love it.

But it’s not just Twitter – Facebook is showing potential to harness a different aspect of socialTV: the schedule guide.

At a marketing conference on June 30 Andy Mitchell, SVP of Strategic Partner Development at Facebook said, “If you look at the program guide [as it stands now], you’re trying to figure out what to watch among five hundred channels. It’s really hard…But think about a program guide where you see what your friends are watching, that changes the experience.”

Lost Remote follows that up with an interesting idea:

Facebook also offers the ability to schedule and check into events, which could have interesting implications for a social TV guide. Speaking earlier this year, Facebook’s Christian Hernandez Gallardo says they’ve spoken with broadcasters about the idea of “putting their full EPG (electronic programming guide) as events on Facebook and the ability to RSVP and check-in to all of them.”

That seems to makes sense. I already use Facebook events to help schedule my social life, and I’d rather put entries for TV shows on Facebook than my more important and serious Google calendar. Seeing what my friends are watching via a suggestion guide seems intuitive without being pushy.

It just seems natural to be extending the entertainment experience from the big screen to the second screens. And I’d much rather be part of the action while it happens, instead of looking back on it after the fact.

What do you think – does social media have the power to save live TV?

The Blanks Do Katy Perry

On this cold and rainy Friday afternoon in Boston (it IS summer, right?) I found myself re-watching a favorite music video of late. If you aren’t familiar with The Blanks, they are an AMAZING a-capella band that appeared often on Scrubs. I saw them in concert last year and it was one of the best shows I’ve ever experienced, complete with Ted was singing at me inches from my face!

Anyways, you must watch this video; it’ll put the biggest grin on your face. Oh, and for you Cougar Town fans, there’s a little something-something in the background if you pay attention!

I think my favorite moment, aside from The Todd, is the crane shot. First time I saw it, I burst out laughing!

I hope Bill wasn’t joking…

…but you never know. Anyways, I thought this says a lot about the future of social media in entertainment (and in under 140 characters!)

Cougar Town Explores Social Engagement During Hiatus: #Win

*edited 4/9/11 6:11pm

Since Cougar Town went on hiatus two months ago, Creator/Executive Producer Bill Lawrence has been hitting the Internet. Hard.

While it looks like he is genuinely enjoying the engagement with fans, I’ve been wondering if it was all a final push to get viewership up for the show’s return on April 18. Turns out, it is. And I think that’s brilliant.

It begun innocently enough with @VDOOZER and @kbiegel tagged on the title screen of CT’s last episode with an invitation to stay in touch. I immediately accepted, and found out we’d be treated to some hiatus fun with Cougar Town: Writers Vs. Actors mini videos on Vulture.

I’m a sucker for behind the scenes stuff anyways, and these weekly clips were awesome – hilarious, a perfect length, and featured cast, crew, and writers. The best part was that Bill and Kevin owned it from the beginning.

Then last week, Bill announced his takeover of the Scrubs Facebook page. It was then I realized two things:

  1. This is a Cougar Town viewership mission, and I love the strategy.
  2. I’m going to cry if it doesn’t work.

I’ve never seen a television producer go to such lengths to engage fans. Yeah, we can assume Bill’s motive is to bump viewership, but if you look at the way he talks to people on Twitter and watch the homegrown videos he’s recently posted on Facebook, one thing is blatantly clear: He loves what he’s doing – and he believes in it. And damn it, that’s why I have such an enormous man-crush on him.

Regardless of what happens with Cougar Town, I think this is a great strategy. Fans love talking to the stars and producers of their favorite shows. Social media lets the actors and creators listen and engage on a  level that is totally unprecedented. This is incredibly powerful, and if applied to TV shows, could be a serious tool for bumping viewership – but it has to be done in the right way. This mission would have been radically different if an intern was posting all the content. They aren’t – I checked:

http://twitter.com/#!/VDoozerAsst/status/52896912407408640

Success lies in truth. Bill standing there in Christa’s bathroom recording himself in the mirror is REAL. Hell, I’ve taken pictures of myself that way. He’s managed to break the barriers of fame and show himself as someone accessible to you and me. Seriously, isn’t that AWESOME? I really think this type of engagement strategy could revolutionize the way we experience entertainment.

As Hill Holliday’s Mike Proulx said, “TV is not dying. It is changing and getting better.”

In the end, I only want to know one thing: Who’s idea was it? Bill’s? Kevin’s? ABC’s?? (god I hope it wasn’t ABC).

Does anyone have other examples of how TV producers/creators are personally engaging fans through social media? I’d love to find some more examples like this!

*edited 4/9/11 6:11pm: Talk about an epic end to #failweek. Slightly embarrassed.

#Piers Morgan Twitter Show & Dreaming Big!

I loved Tuesday night’s Piers Morgan show! It reinforced just how much Twitter is truly changing our world – for the better.

Here are some ideas I particularly liked, and I’ll elaborate on a few below:

  • With Twitter, there is a lot less pressure to be perfect because of the sheer volume of information
  • Twitter allows first hand, immediate testimony
  • It’s all about the content
  • Celebrities can control the personal information that gets out almost immediately
  • Twitter is THE listening platform of our generation
  • Local government can be more effective by using Twitter
  • We establish a real connection and have conversations with prominent figures we’d only see from afar in real life

From a news perspective:

Whether you’re a reporter on the ground or a civilian in the middle of a protest, Twitter allows you to broadcast real-time information about what’s going on. This ability is changing the way we consume news, and it’s forcing accountability and honesty. That has been totally key with the uprisings in Egypt and the Middle East, as proven by NYT columnist Nick Kristof.

Hell, even after shutting off the Internet, the Egyptian government couldn’t stem the flow of information. Companies like Google have proved they are ready to jump in and help keep communication lines open because it’s the right thing to do. You can’t stop the signal.

From a content perspective:

I loved that @jack stated that it’s about the content more than anything. Influence by sheer numbers isn’t as important as the actual information. There have been multitudes of studies about this. As someone with a large background in editorial and writing, I loved that the creators of Twitter themselves reinforced my belief that content is king.

Alyssa Milano spoke about the ability to control personal information with Twitter. For her, it was the outlet she used to announce the gender of her baby. Because she could do it in her words, it makes it so much more personal. Celebrities must love this!

From a social good perspective:

I squealed with pleasure when Alyssa talked about charity: water and how Twitter allowed her to raise a ton of money for this amazing organization. It’s ability to crowd-source is phenomenal!

From a government perspective:

Newark Mayor Cory Booker really impressed me with his down to earth conversational style that oozes passion and dedication. Listening to him describe using Twitter to literally dig Newark out after a massive snow storm hit the Northeast was downright inspiring.

It’s no secret that government, even of the local variety, tends to get bogged down in bureaucracy. This has always frustrated me, but hearing Mayor Booker describe hitting the streets, rounding up constituents via Twitter to shovel snow and even bring food and diapers to home-bound citizens gave me shivers.

The tools to make our country great again are here and it’s time to harness them! Let’s forget our fears of failure or  unknown technology and get our hands dirty. We CAN create positive change in our communities, and Mayor Booker has proven that. Just jump.

From a connection perspective:

I’m thrilled to have a concrete example of how Twitter facilitates conversation between everyday people and celebrities, politicians, etc.

An hour before Piers began, I was tooling around on Twitter and saw this from Bill Lawrence, one of my absolute favorite people in the television world:

Having followed both Bill and Christa on Twitter for some time, loving both of their Tweets, I @ replied him this:

(Yeah, I was trying to get a response – but Christa IS beautiful!)

Three minutes later the blinking blue light on my phone told me I had a reply:

I snapped to attention, eager to continue the conversation via my weapon of choice – playful banter:

I didn’t really expect a reply, so when this happened I almost died:

OMG he used my real name!

In an effort to dig myself in deeper (and possibly end up looking super silly), I wrote this:

I then received the confirmation I was praying for:
http://twitter.com/#!/VDoozerAsst/status/52896912407408640

And that, my friends, is how Twitter lets you talk to people you’d probably never meet in real life.

Talking to Bill Lawrence has been on my bucket list for years, and though this was incredibly exciting (albeit short), I’m not ready to cross it off yet because I’m holding out for talking to him in person. Gotta dream big, baby!