Social Landscape Shifts in TV Marketing from 2009 to 2016


The VMAs have often been the benchmark by which other award-show “social” moments are judged. Rather than start with the 2016 event from a few weeks ago, I’d like to time warp back to a watershed moment at the 2009 VMAs. Just moments after Taylor Swift accepted the Moonman and began her acceptance speech, Kanye West stormed the stage, taking the microphone from Swift to announce his belief that Beyoncé deserved the award. This was a significant moment in television history that was accompanied by a massive amount of social traffic with viewers taking sides and reacting in real time on Twitter (which had launched less than 3 years earlier at SXSW). Millions of both supporters and haters taking to Twitter hinted at Twitter’s burgeoning role and importance in the live TV ecosphere.

In addition to the 8.97 million viewers, the 2009 VMAs’ also became the #1 cable program that year for the much-desired 12-34 demographic, Variety reported, mostly due to these anticipated unscripted moments. The combination of having the younger demo tied to the 1st screen, but having mobile access too was a massive win for MTV at the time. Additionally, it paved the way for media companies to build their own social departments and dedicate resources to “connected content” and 2nd screen strategies.

Fast forward 7 years to plummeting traditional ratings for this year’s 2016 VMAs mixed with the multitude of both streaming and social viewing options. The TV audience dropped from 9.8 million last year to 6.5 million this year. Online, however, MTV says the show had 62 million streams – a significant increase from 37 million streams of the 2015 VMAS. The streaming numbers of Facebook live alone went from 4.4 million streams in 2015 to 45.8 streams, an increase of 940%.

More people watching the VMAs on Facebook rather than through their cable channel? Not shocking news. Facebook is easy and free to access. MTV’s Facebook page has a built-in audience of 49,004,762 which get notified every time they publish a live broadcast (a surprisingly close number to the reported 45.8 M who watched the show through Facebook live). I won’t delve into the value of the data that MTV can glean from those 45.8 million viewers on Facebook. I’ll leave that for a future discussion on Facebook’s ad network, viewer data and retargeting.

I’m interested in the discussion around the shift in social marketing strategy from a focus on tuning in to a specific moment on linear TV to a broader call to action to engage and experience (binge watching in the case of Netflix) the content on social, mobile, digital, or wherever the audience lives.

Examples of both a broadcast network and a new OTT platform utilizing social media to enhance and build audience for a targeted marketing objective can be seen in the leak of a 11 minute trailer for Season 2 of “Narcos” and the use of Facebook live platform to hype the annual Premios Tu Mundo telecast on Telemundo.

Let’s start with the season 2 premiere of “Narcos” on Netflix. Social marketing has become even more important to brands like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon than it is to ABC or NBC as a primary channel for spreading awareness and picking up additional viewers. The aforementioned traditional networks have hours of ad inventory dedicated to promoting and cross promoting their network programming priorities. Netflix or Hulu, on the other hand, use social channels like Facebook to engage and connect with their audience in authentic and sometimes comical ways.

Leading up to the Sept 4th premiere, Netflix leaked an 11 minute Narcos trailer (purportedly leaked by the DEA) to 14 of the international Narcos Netflix pages a week in advance of the premiere on Facebook live. With the massive built in audience on the Narcos US Facebook page alone, 2.695 million fans were notified of this “leaked” trailer through their Facebook notifications. In addition, fans who commented on the trailer received individual responses from a team of social managers that responded in the voice of the Colombian drug king pin, Pablo Escobar:

In addition to using Facebook to activate their audience in advance of their summer Tent pole awards show, Telemundo is one of the first broadcast networks to begin to tie in a brand to their Facebook live broadcast. An extended trailer for the LionsGate theatrical release, No Manches Frida, was included in a question and answer style interview with the show’s talent. Using our Live Studio tool, they also brought fans into the experience by incorporating the best questions and comments in real time. The video has had over 200K+ view in less than 24 hours. By engaging the audience through a series of these broadcasts in the three weeks preceding the live show on the Premios Tu Mundo Facebook Page (with an audience of 665K+), Telemundo created a connection with fans who came back repeatedly to interact with the show’s talent and have a chance to vote on their favorite Latin celebrities.

You can view the the Facebook LIVE broadcast at the link below:

Premios Tu Mundo FacebookLIVE featuring film trailer

Let’s remember that Facebook Live was started just a few months ago in partnership with several news and media organizations. Twitter’s live service, Periscope, is older, but it too is better thought of as a series of one-off news clips than a comprehensive source of compelling long form entertainment content. These new platforms are still in their infancy and it’s up to the content creators to either use them to build audience and activate engagement by marketing and speaking to them in an authentic voice.

In 2009, during the Kanye/Taylor VMAs moment, I worked in the music industry which chose to ignore, or, at the very least, marginalize streaming music services (I distinctly remember the conversation at one marketing meeting “Spotify is from Sweden – a very small music market that won’t have any international ambition or reach”) As we can see from the Netflix/Narcos and Telemundo/Premios Tu Mundo marketing experiences, both networks are utilizing the live streaming platforms to reach and engage audiences as well as starting to integrate brands into the marketing mix. This year marks a very important shift in strategy for Facebook with their focus on live streaming video. Media companies and content creators should be including Facebook live in their marketing strategies in order to build and engage the existing massive audience which Facebook can deliver.

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