Evolving from Experiments to Social TV Formats

We have had the privilege and pleasure of working with a number of national networks on their social TV implementations this past year. I call them “implementations” – I could also easily call them “experimentations” as well.

To name a few, at least on this side of the pond: Univision, ESPN, Turner Sports, ABC News, QVC, Music Choice, CBC, The Score, Bell Media, Nick and the BBG.

I am happy to say I think we are all maturing more quickly than I ever could have hoped a year to 18 months ago.

We have held four brainstorms this past year in order to encourage us all to move beyond experimentation and into creating proper formats that help drive the story. We need to give Executive Producers real tools that become integral to the program so that, as Peter Harris, EP for CBC’s Power and Politics, put it to me one day over the phone:

“I do not feel like I am simply ‘ticking the social checkbox,’ it’s a fundamental part of my program now.”

This is music to my ears of course. It’s not ‘Social TV’. It’s just good TV.

Here’s one way I think we can push the power of messaging platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SMS and email – geolocation. We have not yet begun to really harness the power of geolocated messages to paint a canvas of opinions for our producers and our audiences.

Our friends at Univision did a great job of exploring the power of geolocation during the US elections. By simply isolating buckets of conversation in swing states and heavily concentrated Latino populations, it somehow seemed to give new relevance and power to the sight of a message being displayed onair – coupled with the power of a truly elegant Viz World powered animation.

Univision GeoLocation Viz World
Watch the Geolocation Video.

Heat maps anyone? Yes please!

We expect to see a wave of geolocated formats emerge this year – I am particularly energized by the enthusiasm I am hearing at the local station level.

Our friends at ESPN reminded us of the power of re-igniting old formats with the fuel of social. For Sports Nation, we created a Word Cloud visualization that tallied and ranked the frequency of people’s tweeted responses to questions from the hosts. First the hosts would riff on their predictions, then they would cue the graphic and voila! There was the audience’s ranked response to the same question. Then the hosts would riff some more. The Word Cloud in other words was not just a brief graphic inserted as a transition graphic between events on air – it was the anchor to 3 or 4 minutes of conversation. A conversation between the hosts and the audience. We expect to see more executions around this format this year.

ESPN Word Cloud

Music Choice continues to lead the pack with what can only be called truly social TV – letting the viewers decide what comes next on SWRV. A 24/7 dynamic, real-time, music-focused network. They’ve cooked up a number of formats like Crowned, Face Off, Fan Faves, SWRV Takeover, etc. – formats that are then released into our software speaking to Harris automation and graphics. The users literally take over the network and decide what comes next, be it simply selecting the next video to literally “exploding” a video mid clip and starting a new one to “hijacking” the broadcast altogether.

I am heading up to my friend Paul McGrath’s inaugural “Innovatv” symposium in Toronto on Thursday. Paul is Senior Producer, Interactive, for Unscripted, Studio, Live at CBC. He too is concerned with evolving this fledgling yet promising industry we call social TV into good TV. A number of people will present, for just 10 minutes, an idea for making TV better. I’m looking forward to this.

Finally, where would we all be without the beneficence of the advertising community? To the people at never.no, an advertisement is an opportunity to create a good story (sorry, I still cannot bring myself to say “good content” – didn’t like the term ever since it was coined frankly). Now that we are beginning to put social TV on a stable production platform, we are turning our attention to the potential to harness social to impact a sequence of sponsor creative in realtime during the course of a show. We have already had one exemplary success with ITV, Intel, Shazam and Facebook during an X Factor broadcast in the UK right before Christmas.

Check it below or read the case study.


Footage courtesy of ITV and Intel.

Watch this space for more.

Kelly A. Moulton, VP North America