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NATPE 2008: It’s digital silly, get the fan base involved!

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NATPE 2008:  It’s digital silly, get the fan base involved!

The NATPE Conference 2008 is over, and on an interesting note at that. Executives from various arms of the television industry took a closer look at what the content strategies should be in the new digital age, and how best to be able to involve the fans with the show and the channel.

Jon Vlassopulos, SVP, Digital Media and Branded Entertainment, Endemol USA, explained that Endemol had created to allow fans to interact more with the show that the company created and have access to them any time they wanted. He informed that many digital myths like that of a younger audience coming in or the revenue realities were busted for the company in the initial stages of their digital experience.

Erik Flannigan, EVP, Digital Media, MTV Networks Entertainment Group, took the audience through the MTV experience where the company woke up to the digital side in the nick of time, and the journey from there was to be able to monetise the archives of the content that was created across various MTV brands that even the likes of YouTube didn’t have access to.

Tom Hagopian, EVP and GM, Digital Media, Playboy, divulged that Playboy was sitting on a happy position, where unlike many other sites, people paid for the content and hence, allowed the company both subscription revenue and advertising revenue for the Internet side of their business. Vlassopulos added here that the job for Endemol, too, was to be able to pitch to the networks a 360-degree plan for the content that Endemol created, and ensure that every frame was adequately monetised.

Hagopian agreed and added, “That is the key. You need to make a business case, so when you are developing content, you should be able to project then how well you can monetise it.” He informed that while Playboy at present was operating through various distribution platforms, they were also keen to go direct to the consumers.

Flannigan voiced a doubt here stating that it was very difficult to bring in a value measurement system to any branded entertainment activity, especially when the game was still about CPMs (cost per millions). He also said, “Another problem really is that the creative guys aren’t even thinking about advertising or monetising when they are creating the content.” Another challenge that Hagopian added to the list was that the pathway to a brand from search mechanisms were shrinking with the emergence of social networking communities in the digital space. It was very important for brands to make careful noise on all of their activities.

Flannigan voiced it for all when he said that speed mattered, otherwise the consumer would beat you to creating an engaging idea around your brand, and while that was good publicity, there was no way to monetise the user-generated efforts. “Networks today are giving their content to consumers to do whatever they want because consumers in any case have access to it, and they are doing things with it that couldn’t even be imagined a couple of years back,” he pointed out.

The consumer challenge is all about involving them with the brand. Television programme executives are of the opinion that this challenge is not too difficult to meet if one planned their brand moves carefully enough.

Kevin Chou, CEO, TVLoop, a dedicated television social networking site, explained that connecting television fans with each other was a business in itself, and that from platforms such as Facebook, MySpace, Bebo and Tagged to Networks themselves were willing to partner in initiatives like this, as end of the exercise, the fans not only engaged with the brand but also traffic was directed back to these partners.

Kim Moses, Principal, Sander/Moses Productions, spoke on the importance of professionally produced digital content activities to engage fans better. She quoted the example of ‘Ghost Whisperer’ and the content created by opening a contest to fans on creating their own ghost stories – all of which were finally put together with the cast of the show in the final output.

Bill Bradford, SVP, Content Strategy, Fox Productions, however, explained that the effort to engage the fan base should be broad than narrowed to only one show or channel. He said, “It is unreal to expect a significant mass engaging with the digital activity if the choice is limited. The more that can be roped in for this, the better it is for the digital side of the business.”

Joe Ferreira, SVP and GM, CBS Audience Network, CBS Interactive, reiterated the need to get people excited about a show, and also explained that on the ground level being connected with the superfans or the influencers, and doing something extra for them was of vital importance. These initiatives would also play a role in checking any negativity that might come up in the fanbase. The key to get the fan base involved is to respond creatively and quickly to what the fans are asking for.


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