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Viacom: “We see OTT as an opportunity to significantly amplify conversations”

David Lynn, Viacom International Media Networks

David Lynn, Viacom International Media Networks

David Lynn, MD & EVP of Viacom International Media Networks UK, Australia and Eastern Europe and International Content Distribution, on how Viacom brands are leveraging social media tools to engage with more effectively with audiences, and how these will be put into action during the 2012 European Music Awards in November.

How is MTV using viewers’ growing familiarity with social media to engage with them more effectively?

Each of the Viacom brands engages in a constant dialogue with our audiences through multiple platforms, which informs our content and the way we extend viewing experiences across social media.

What is most exciting for us is that as technology develops, so do the opportunities for interactive experiences to deepen relationships with audiences. This is particularly true for the millennials watching and engaging with MTV, especially since they are the audience that expects to connect to people while watching TV and be actively heard.

They’re demanding it so we’re delivering it, and making their connection that much richer. With UK figures stating that 80% of under 25s are using a mobile device to communicate with friends while watching TV and 72% are using Twitter, Facebook or mobile applications to comment on shows, we’re focused on providing the ‘power to participate’ and provide a seamless link between content on devices and content on the screen.

We see this link growing around several properties on MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central as well as our other brands, which tells us that the more we invest and learn about our audiences and their tech habits, the better we’re equipped to develop multi platform content that enriches their experiences.

How is your multiscreen engagement strategy evolving?

Viacom is a pure-play content company, so making great brands, shows and characters is what we do best. Those brands include MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, BET, and more, which can be seen in more than 600 million households in 160+ countries, across more than 500 digital properties.

We feel this is a great time to be in the content industry as availability, quality and quantity of our content are what fuel the success of new distributor options. From our perspective, it’s important to work hand in hand with both existing and new partners to both innovate and enhance the viewer experience.

We don’t engineer the technology – we’re serving the audiences who are driving the adoption of it. We evolve as they do, remembering that content is the essential ingredient to multi-platform engagement.

A great example to point to is the MTV EMA, our annual European awards event. We constantly push the envelope to enhance the multi-platform experience and leverage our relationship with talent to create content that complements what viewers are seeing on the television.

In 2010 we had Justin Bieber serve as the Digital Host, and in 2011 had Selena Gomez serve as both the main show host and the digital host. Between the two of them, you’re talking to 40+ million Twitter followers.

The 2011 EMA was our most watched ever with more than 39 million viewers tuning in to MTV and VIVA channels around the world, and we saw a +29% increase in unique visitors to the EMA website on the day of the show.

Fans were watching, tweeting, posting and sharing in record numbers throughout – so the bar has been raised this year.  I’ll be at the OTTtv World Summit the week prior to the 2012 EMAs, so will tell attendees more about our plans in November.

What strengths do over-the-top (OTT) services have when it comes to integrating social media?

As the technology evolves, so too do the opportunities for incredibly interactive experiences that deepen the relationships we have with our audiences. We see OTT as an opportunity to significantly amplify conversations as well as audience connections around content.

For example, we’ve developed tools such as the “Under The Thumb” app which provides a platform for viewers to engage in a real-time conversation about their favourite MTV shows, as well as access exclusive content available via their mobile.

We’ve also had over 10,000 downloads of the “Geordie Shore” tweet tracker app, a destination that connects viewers and the cast of what’s become the highest rated show in MTV UK’s history.

How do you plan to encourage the youth demographic to engage more with MTV content?

For a company like Viacom, our brands, shows and stars are living at the intersection of entertainment and social media. Developing new ways to boost engagement levels is a key element of our focus, and to do this effectively we are constantly in touch with how our audience’s tech habits are evolving.

To amplify their conversation is a key part of keeping the engagement levels high, but it always comes back to great content that people want to talk about. That can come in the form of Beyoncé announcing her pregnancy at the MTV Video Music Awards or the antics of the cast of “The Valleys,” MTV UK’s newest reality show.

Keeping a close eye on the intersection of social media and entertainment is key.

We’re also seeing kids interact with programming a lot more.  It’s inherent to them so we’re focused on providing the platforms that parents can trust and which enable kids to feel closer to their favourite shows.

Nick UK’s “Camp Orange: The Lost Kingdom” extends the viewing experience online, giving kids the chance to vote for their favourite competitors and access behind-the-scenes content and more. Within 24 hours of the August 12 premiere, we saw over 33,000 votes come in – a figure that jumped to over 230,000 within ten days.

Without question, social media applications and extensions are an inherent part of any launch strategy and are giving us more opportunity to engage and create buzz around our properties. As we keep the dialogue with our audiences flowing, the question for us isn’t so much “what now?” but “what’s next?”

David will be speaking at the OTTtv World Summit event taking place in London on 5th-8th November. For more information and to register, please visit www.ottworldsummit.com

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