DRIVING AUDIENCE GROWTH & ENGAGEMENT WITHIN THE POP CULTURE & ENTERTAINMENT REALM

Audience growth and television viewing habits took center stage at The LiveFronts in a panel moderated by Wall Street Journal Senior Editor Mike Shields. The discussion with executives from Twitch, Viacom, BET, E! and Univision covered live streaming, branded content, multiplatform advertising and audience engagement.

In an era dominated by the on-demand, binge-viewing style, live has emerged as a priority for trend-setting platforms like Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter. Traditional television content providers have leveraged this opportunity to better connect with their audiences in a welcomed fashion.

“People want to talk about what’s happening in the moment,” said John Najarian, Executive Vice President and General Manager of Digital for E!. “They have their phone with them, and they’re not necessarily in front of a television, so that’s what we’re seeing.”

Najarian notes that while Facebook has “turned a fire-hose on live” and changed the structure of E! Online’s daily news show, the shift to Facebook Live allows the audience to participate. He said 75-90 percent of viewing for the show has been live.

Creating content and advertisements in an experiential setting was of paramount importance to all members of the panel. The definition of a view in a multiplatform measurement situation, viewer engagement and advertising packaging were touched upon, as were experiences like new E! show “Freestyle,” Viacom Labs, Univision’s election coverage, the BET Awards and Twitch’s foray into broadcasting Bob Ross’ painting shows.

“We keep calling it live streaming, but when you get up to 10 minutes and keep somebody’s attention for 10 minutes, that’s actually live programming,” said Kay Madati, EVP and Chief Digital Officer at BET Networks. “That brings in a whole other level of engagement and expectation. Advertisers who want to be connected to the 360 content opportunity are following us.”

Twitch’s Chief Revenue Officer, Jonathan Simpson-Blint, noted that the average person is spending two hours per day on the platform, which means “something else is being squeezed out there.” He reported that the Bob Ross videos drew 16M viewers and billions of minutes of viewing. An experiment with a Julia Child marathon also produced amazing results.

“The community got into this and started to broadcast themselves cooking,” Simpson-Blint said. “They went back to video games later in the day or the following day. The community has a very powerful sense of its own voice.”

Complementing those points, Sarah Weir Iooss, Viacom’s SVP of Business Development and Tonia O’Connor, Univision’s Chief Content Officer, shared sentiments about the importance of audience engagement.

“Audiences love all different sorts of genres, Iooss said. “Co-creation and fan engagement have been so important at Viacom for years and years. We look at Snapchat and Live Stories as really foundational in our live practice. We have a calendar of events that helps us organize our live practice in an elevated way.”

“If you make content, there’s nothing better than immediate response,” O’Connor added. “We’re all creating unique content for multiple platforms and that’s expensive. Measurement and monetization have not caught up yet.”

Each panelist noted that measurement and monetization will be key improvement areas for live, digital consumption in the coming years. The development of best-practices for engagement, measurement, and advertiser return-on-investment were highlighted as imperative next steps.

 


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