TV Winners Build Brands & Build Fans
By Angela Natividad for mipblog
Every year after the market, head of social media James Martin of Reed MIDEM leads a panel of market influencers, from across the industry, to discuss the trends and topics that leaped out at them over the course of MIPCOM.
This week’s panel includes Ali May, presenter at Mayhart; Kim Moses, producer at Sander/Moses Productions; JA Steel, producer and director at Warrior Entertainment; Catherine Warren, founder and president of FanTrust Entertainment Strategies; and, of course, Martin, who led the discussion.
Martin kicked off with the some of the most notable Twitter hashtags of the market.
He began with hashtags related to our Country of Honour: #TurkeyHomeofContent, #TurkeyatMipcom2015, and @TubaBustun, the Twitter account of actress Tuba Büyüküstün, who appeared on a panel this week and is dubbed by some as “the Sharon Stone of Turkey”.
Moses, who transported the phrase “Turkey is the new Israel” to MIPCOM this week, elaborated on her personal experience with this market.
Just a short while ago, she said, there was almost no activity at the Turkey content booths. She bought the rights to Turkish drama Son, changed the show name to Runner for the American market, and sold it to Hollywood. It was only at her panel this week that she discovered that, after she made her first purchase, they’d sold the show to 50 other countries.
“We’ve watched Turkey explode,” Moses emphasised. “In the US, Latin American culture and demographics have become very powerful in trend-setting and content consumption across platforms. Not only does Turkish content translate into the US, it also translates into LatAm countries”—which also makes a big impact on the US market.
“Clearly [Turkey] has a storytelling sensibility with themes that are universally important,” she said. “The year we bought the Turkish format, Israel was leading, and before that were the Danes. This year they’re the country of honour. It’s extraordinary to see how one buy can open the market the way it did.”
Asked by Martin what the link is between Latin American and Turkish culture, Moses said, “Latin Americans love telenovelas, stories, romance, heightened drama. And you have to have romance in Turkish stories.”
She also counselled potential buyers to be patient if they find that Turkish series seem to take a long time to get to the point. In the US, shows typically last anywhere between 43 minutes plus commercials, or a full 60 minutes on cable without commercials. “In Turkey they do between 90-120 minutes an episode, and they do 120 episodes a year!” she exclaimed.
“Because they have such a big timeslot to fill, the pacing is slower, more dramatic; in the US it’s very fast because they’re afraid to lose their audience. When looking at Turkish formats, be patient. In your country you’ll most likely condense it, but [Turkish] pacing is for a practical reason: to fill big timeslots.
Next big hashtag: #MIPJUNIOR
“Three of our top ten posts were about MIPJunior,” said Martin. “One of the biggest was the YouTube keynote. The pitch was also interesting; practically everyone was pitching transmedia formats. And we had an interesting development to What Do Buyers Want?—the addition of platforms like Amazon, getting the point of view on that.”
Next, hashtags related to The X-Files, including #xfiles and #xfilesrevival.
“It depends on the show” whether a reboot will work or not, Steel remarked, and how the content is treated—reimagining, or continuation? “If that’s what the audience is buying, I’ll sell it. It’s a business.”
“There’s a fear about launching new shows and bringing an audience to a network,” said Moses, which is why we see so many reboots, from films like Rush Hour to shows like the X-Files, or even a mix of the two—like the Minority Report series that carries on from the film.
And while she acknowledged that the X-Files reinvigoration was smart, she pointed out that “it’s because they want that built-in audience. It may not be an effective long-term strategy.”
“I worry about this fear of ratings,” said May. “Of course you have a built-up base of fans, but are they going to be disappointed? How does it impact creativity?”
“The world was very different 10, 12, 14 years ago; people were different, their values were different,” Moses added. “You can’t just take a 1:1 conversion and think it’s gonna be a hit.”
The next big hit was @jennettemccurdy, the Twitter account for actress Jennette McCurdy, who stars in Between, the first original Canadian Netflix series. Data indicated she was the most influential person on Twitter at MIPCOM this week.
For those who wondered, “her show takes place in a village wiped out by a plague and everyone is killed except the under-22-year-olds,” said Martin.
“We’re all dead!” May lamented.
“The show is very Millennials-focused,” Warren allowed.
Next up, #disruption, which you may have heard about in both positive and negative contexts.
Notably, Ericsson’s ConsumerLab research found that eight in 10 teens watch some form of streamed video or TV daily. “What does that mean for how TV content is consumed and made?”
“One of the Disruptors I had in my panel this week was from Spotify,” Warren said, referring to the TV disruptors panel that included Spotify’s global head of original content Matt Baxter.
“What he said is they’re now getting into the original content space. Even these digital companies”—who were disruptors themselves just a handful of years ago—”now have disruptors from within. He’s now faced with the challenge of disrupting a company that’s just been a flow-through for other rights, and bringing original content generation up through that business. It’s a smart move if they can pull it off.”
“The disruption she’s talking about also affects all of you,” Moses said, breaking the audience’s fourth wall.
“If people watch on all different platforms and control what they’re watching and how they’re watching, then they’re consuming content much faster. In the US, the pipeline we have to develop a pilot—not even a series—is nine months to one year. That means our pipeline isn’t operating fast enough; there’s a need on all these platforms for more content, faster. We need to look overseas and around the world for new content that’s a proof of concept and doesn’t have to go through the development season of nine months to one year.”
In short, this presents a huge opportunity for international content creators to “get content into the US, which had a higher threshold in the past,” Moses encouraged.
“It’s irrelevant talking about first versus second screens,” said May. “It’s just a matter of consuming content wherever and however you want. It’s fascinating for us, producing content, to talk to people like Spotify and see what we can bring to the table. How can we collaborate and create amazing next-generation content that chimes with audiences that don’t have a commitment to any type of consumption?”
We then moved on to the topics that resonated the most for each panellist this week.
Warren began with her topic, #TVxTwitter.
“Twitter’s upped its game in terms of letting people create videos you can launch anywhere, not just on Twitter,” said Warren, refering to Snappy TV. “And with Amplify, if there’s a tweetable moment in a broadcast, you can tweet up a video clip, Twitter will monetise that for you, and you guys can revenue-share on that.”
There’s also a serious distribution pull: “They’re claiming reach of 1B ppl for these videos,” said Warren.
“I was excited to see Twitter represent itself as a partner for premium content, producers, networks, and broadcasters. It’s so different from how so many social networks launched and were perceived as antithetical or adversarial to our model,” Warren concluded.
Martin was also impressed by a statement Dr. Bassem Youssef made during the Twitter panel: Manage the explosion of emotion and choose what’s best for your show and content. “It’s fascinating to see Twitter as a constant feedback loop,” said Martin. “It’s not just ‘I’m watching a show and tweeting about it’; it’s I’m in this engagement with audiences all the time’.”
“Obviously there’s livetweeting, which promotes engagement; what you’re talking about is a whole new level of collaboration with audiences,” Warren replied. “That may not work for long scripted dramas, but could work for reality or short-form content.”
“With reality TV, that sort of engagement is very ripe,” May said to Warren. “But how would you implement that with great factual documentary shows?”
Warren used the example of HBO’s The Jinx, which “took off like a rocketship on Twitter and Reddit in moments.”
The Jinx was a true crime, hour-long, six-episode series that HBO aired in January, following the runaway success of true crime podcast Serial, which primed audiences for more of the same.
“Talk about being on the edge of your seat!” Warren exclaimed. During The Jinx, “Many of us were second-screening, and that six-episode documentary series has one of the most shocking endings of anything I’ve ever seen in my life. I screamed.”
Basically, “it’s the perfect blend of Twitter livetweeting and documentary,” she went on. “When the show ended and everyone jumped out of our seats, the next question was, ‘what other true crime thing can we now binge on?’” That drove users to both recommend, and discover, similar documentaries like The Staircase and various BBC shows available for free on YouTube. “So it served as a wonderful recommendation engine as well,” Warren said.
Steel’s trend was the crossover of content from terrestrial to online and social, a topic that means a lot to her as a director and producer, and as someone who also has a cultivated relationship with fans on social media.
“If we don’t monetise, we can’t afford to make good, high quality content,” said Steel. “How do you have a show in your country and at the same time increase awareness globally?”
“What is the right amount of time to spend on social versus actually creating content?” countered Martin. “Have you found the right balance?”
“I found the right balance,” said Steel, who talked about her experience blogging for MIPBlog. She does it on a tight schedule and watches the metrics closely: “Your fans are online between this time and that one, your most effective post is Tuesday in the afternoon, you can’t post too much or too little,” she said. Data like this enables her to produce content on a fixed schedule at optimum times for her fanbase, using terms and cultural references she knows from the data is interesting to them.
“You have this really scientific approach to social. You’re doing all your research and teaching me a thing or two as well,” Martin observed.
“There are these programmers on Facebook that are constantly changing their algorithm,” said Steel. “Nielsen ratings have a very scientific breakdown” of when one event or another should happen for a fan. “There’s a very formulaic methodology to the behavioural habits of people. Once you’re captured that, you’ve captured the market.”
Pressed on how she divides her time between social media activities and actual content creation, Steel admitted it depends on when the next market happens.
“I create for the next market. It’s cyclical; I may create more product in the spring as opposed to the fall. It’s like having TV seasons for series. You take a break, then you come back.”
Moses’ trend came next: Branded, inter-connected content.
In Moses’ view and experience, branded content will “provide new ways to make money. Rather than having traditional networks or platforms pay for and sponsor content,” there’ll be brands like Red Bull or Marriott picking up the check, she said.
Speaking of Marriott, her production company has a ripe example that illustrates just this point.
“Marriott created a studio and came to us to create a piece of global content,” Moses began. They had three distinct constraints: They had to “hit millennials, not shoot in the US, and very lightly embed their ‘Travel Brilliantly’ message. They didn’t want it to be a commercial.”
Marriott also observed, from research, that for every minute your content takes up online, you risk the chance of someone “diving off and going to look at something else,” said Moses.
“We came up with something to answer that challenge: Magical realism. It’s a story in Paris, 24 minutes long. Every minute there was something unique happening visually to make you lean in: A flying laptop, lots of other things.”
Viewers can see the final result at frenchkissfilm.com.
The piece enjoyed a premier in both Hollywood and Paris. It also appears on Virgin Airlines flights and in theatres in LA. Now it’s doing the film festival rounds.
Marriott’s total budget for shoot in Paris was $300.000. In exchange, and per third-party analysis, it enjoyed $8,4M worth of marketing and publicity in terms of earned media, said Moses.
“Their monetisation was by product, marketing and publicity,” said Moses. “Our monetisation was we got paid for the content and we own 50%, so any platform we put it on in the future, it earns money for us.”
Next was Ali May’s trend, next-generation factual. “In factual TV, there are some things that really propel content creators. 4K means content will look so good, you’ll want to lick your screen!” He described the experience of watching David Attenborough revisit the Great Barrier Reef in a yellow submarine in 4K. “Virtual reality is also a big part of factual TV,” he added. “Now you can put cheap goggles on and walk around underwater, and before you know it, Attenborough appears in his yellow submarine!”
Often when we talk about the golden age of television, we think about dramas like House of Cards. But what if actors could bring big drama and storytelling to documentaries? “Bring in Morgan Freeman to tell you the story of god. Many people think he is god!”
May was then asked whether the democratisation of 4K cameras would result in more quantity and less quality of content. “If we do bad quality content, it’s sacrilege. We’ve seen it all: we’ve seen amazing stuff. We need to evolve,” he stressed. “Evolution isn’t just about hunting and gathering: it’s also about amazing content.”
And there ended MIPCOM 2015!