Appointment TV and Character Blogs

Evan Shapiro of Pivot wrote about the decline of the traditional nationwide scheduled television model, sometimes referred to as Appointment Television; when everyone watched the same revenue-generating commercials at the same time:

“While we will never return to the days when 67 million people watched All In The Family each and every week, I do think we will see a return to live viewing around shows of social significance — especially if we build access points to those shows for the viewers who most want them.”

Access points!  Bingo.  Get creative. Think outside the box.

Shapiro notes that seventy-six percent of social media posts about TV shows happen while the show is airing live. This “in the moment” phenomena is spurred by a combination of new technology like Twitter; and by the power of FOMO (fear of missing out). The 12 thousand tweets per second during the Super Bowl is one example, but so are record numbers of social media for shows like Walking Dead and The Voice.

Those big event shows used to be the norm. Over the last several years, appointment television has been marginalized by demand driven services and the streaming of media to individual viewers, who now watch programs whenever it suits them. It may not even be a television that they are watching, but a PC, a tablet or even a mobile phone. This is often DVR, commercial-free.

Our new user behavior creates new challenges for broadcasters and content producers, in regard to both their technical operations and their business models. But as I wrote before, quoting Jeffrey Cole, Director of the Center for the Digital Future, of the Annenberg School, “42% of TV viewers were online at the same time that they watched TV – looking at related content (a still-growing number that tripled in just a few months).”

That, to me, presents a huge opportunity. Here’s an easy one…

Remember Neil Patrick Harris on Doogie Howser MD? The outer-frame of each episode was him blogging! If produced today, I would hope that show could launch a real blog. And for those who don’t understand the internet, any content can be scheduled to publish specific places on specific dates and times. Plus, blogs take minutes to build.

A transmedia TV hook like a character’s blog creates a value-added bonus for experiencing the show live. It jumpstarts the show back into the realm of appointment television. And it does so with web content geared for shareability so as to bait and hook new viewers to tune in – live. Shapiro would call it an access point.

There is a strong argument to be made for the production of transmedia content by what amounts to a Second Unit. This transmedia team should be made up of digital marketing media specialists and web admins with writing, photo/video skills who can produce this second screen content for the show’s various websites. All content on the website is wired for the social web and contains linkbait.

Some of the transmedia content on periphery websites can be directly related to the TV show’s advertisers or sponsors, effectively expanding their reach. But other web content and advertisements can be internet only. This offers a slightly more affordable advertising route for even more brand sponsors.

Optimally, the transmedia team or “digital Second Unit” is on the set snapping stills, or they’ve got a presence in the writers room, or they have access to a series bible, or dailies, because the transmedia team needs to know production schedules, season arc schedules.

Copy and assets need approval from the showrunner or supervising producer. Ideally, by working with the showrunner, the mission of the transmedia team is to get more viewers to the primary story medium: the TV screen.

How? By providing online payoffs to TV setups, and online setups to TV payoffs. In other words: transmedia storytelling.  One last thing about a character blog… it’s literally the easiest thing to do. You can start a tumblr in les than 30 seconds. Seriously.

Categories: technology, transmedia

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