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so·cial TV  [ˈsō-shəl ˈtē-ˈvē] noun

:the use of technologies that allow a viewer to: discover, interact, socialize, search, share and purchase around content they are watching, synced in real time, on the Big Screen in the Living Room…..or online with a second screen, like a laptop, tablet, game console, smart phone or, on the primary viewing Connected TV  screen

~as defined by Andy Batkin, CEO, Social Summits, LLC

When I think back to my first days in production and distribution (ca. '97) things seem so easy compared to the myriad of considerations facing the release of a successful film or TV property these days.  The sheer number of TYPES of properties and associated content that a storyteller can create and share are wonderful and astounding.  In an attempt to try to stay on top of all the possibilities (I love unreachable goals) last week I attended the intimate Social TV Summit at the Bel-Air Country Club.  Sponsored by the Producers Guild of America and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Social TV bills itself as "Focusing on Producing Content With Social TV and Second Screen Executions in Mind."

They managed to pack a lot of speakers into one afternoon, but the best panel featured five "Senior Level Creative Executives Talk[ing] About The Importance of Planning for Social TV or Second Screen executions BEFORE They Develop TV Shows or Online Video Content.

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TV vet and CEO of production outfit Electus, Ben Silverman had a lot to say and was sharp as usual.  He was exceptionally frank in describing most deals as basically handing off the online content to the final distributor or broadcaster and not being allowed in a major way to participate in developing and benefitting from the exciting potential revenue  beyond some potentially small, predetermined percentage, "Depending on where we are in the food chain, we may not be involved with the incremental advertising revenue associated."  He added, "However, the sponsors have been wonderful in protecting us [the content creators] and our position."

A huge question all execs are faced with these days, and I've yet to hear anyone claim to have the answer, is "Does Social impact ratings? "  Most people agree that while a hot Twitter hashtag might be able to have some positive effect, Facebook has been really late to the game in its outreach to entertainment properties.  Silverman pointed out that "trending" shows seem to get a bump in ratings, but is that because of the trending or because they are innately popular and/or getting a big ad spend/PR push?   (Facebook seems to be getting the message; they sent Strategic Partner Manager, Nick Grudin, to LA recently to listen and improve the conversation with content creators.)

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Get*This CEO, Lisa Farris added some sharp and savvy commentary to the panel with her experience running online product integration and direct sales for shows such as Scandal and Two Broke Girls .  She stressed that the "educational component" is so important when dealing with the integration of product placement and commerce.  Actually most everyone on the panel seemed to agree that a stronger educational push is required on all digital fronts from project finance to online merchandising.  Many of the top execs controlling the purse strings and broadcast strategy are still way behind in their thinking.  Bemoaned Silverman, "The success of online engagement still doesn't figure into the decision-making process.  It's still all about the ratings."

The prevalent sentiment from the panelists was how the internet is a wonderful laboratory and should be used as such by content creators.  Producers looking to integrate online more into their traditional content might want to consider this as they push the boundaries of integration:

"Data is sexy.  Feed the analytics about keywords and sentiment back to your writers and you can enhance your story arc in real time."  Marc Scarpa, SimplyNew Producer/Director, X Factor Pepsi Digital Preshow and Xtra Factor App

"Integrate.  Test.  Experience." Mat Corey, CMO, Mass Relevance

"On-demand.  Not demanding.  Enhance, don't distract.  Give the user what they want.  Help the user interact, find, share, or enjoy.  In the online space focus on evolution, not revolution."  Kyle Brink, Head of Product, Viggle

"If you don't engage them, someone else will."  David Jones, EVP Marketing, Shazam

Several app makers and software companies made short presentations about how they help content creators "socialize" their content, but the presentation by David Jones, EVP of marketing at Shazam really knocked my socks off.  Shazam is an app that resides on cell-phones and tablets and allows users to scan within 5-10 seconds any song they hear and then leads them to information about the song, including links to buy it on iTunes and other online retailers.  What I never realized was that they are now working directly with films and TV shows to deliver trailers and second-screen content to users through the Shazam interface; not only providing huge engagement numbers, but leading to direct commerce as well.


I caught David afterwards and asked him a couple of questions:

Zack Coffman:  What kinds of tools does Shazam offer a filmmaker? Any good ideas or strategies you can recommend?

David Jones:  We work with the film maker or distributor to build custom second-screen experiences for 1 or several moments of a film, or even the entire film. For example, with TV programming (and just as easily with a film), we can synchronize a whole host of content and features that are available on the second screen, synchronized (or not) to precise moments in the movie. Our audio content recognition technology makes this possible, as we know exactly where the viewer is in the film (or any content for that matter). If the film maker has the additional bonus content or second-screen experience in mind, we can make it happen.

As far as ideas to recommend, the possibilities are endless.  Bonus content of many kinds, but for example, additional camera angles, synched content (CMS or live-produced), Interactive content (polls, voting / what's hot, trending), non-synched complementary content (all kinds), additional story lines / video vignettes, behind the scenes / making of videos, sweepstakes / once-in-a-lifetime experiences, instigating more social media conversations from all of this great engagement – the list goes on.

ZC:  What's a film oriented campaign that you're especially proud of?

DJ: Sony Pictures has worked with Shazam to promote the theatrical release of over a half-dozen films in the last year, including great movies like Men In Black 3 and Spiderman. We help turn interest into action, turning a 30-second spot into viewing the full trailer, accessing bonus content, and buying tickets through Fandango right there on your mobile phone. It's simple, but effective. The Glee Movie on DVD was Shazam-enabled where several different scenes in the movie could be Shazam'd to unlock bonus content. I could rattle off quite the list of theatrical and home entertainment releases, but suffice it to say, this is one of many natural fits for mobile activation of movie promos.

ZC:  Is there any plan to develop a suite of tools or an initiative to work more with indies considering their particular needs and parameters?  Any thoughts or advice to add?

DJ:  As far as tools and support for indie filmmakers, while we are leaders in this space, it's also early days. While we've done scores of TV show and live event implementations and hundreds of TV ad campaigns, and produced live, custom second-screen experiences for the biggest live TV events in the US like the Super Bowl, the Olympics, and some of the biggest shows in television like American Idol, a lot of what we've done to date is custom built for clients and partners. We'll make it easier to execute over time, but the most important thing to do is start dreaming now about how you can enhance and expand the storyline to the second screen — synchronously and/or asynchronously — and get started.


Written by Zack Coffman, Head of Content, Distribution, & Strategy at One World Studios Ltd.  He is an award-winning producer specializing in online strategy and monetization, live streaming, and YouTube channel development.  Connect with Zack on LinkedIn, Google+, and @choppertown.