Meerkat says consumer appetite for its livestreaming app is growing, claiming that users are spending 30 percent more time each week watching and socializing. Tonight, the 3-month-old tech player will find out what kind of hankering country music fans have for real-time viewing in what could be a historic event for mobile-livestreaming apps.
The San Francisco-based company is teaming up with cable channel CMT and Mountain Dew to give Meerkat users a view from the front row of Florida Georgia Line's performance during the CMT Music Awards, which begin at 8 p.m. ET. A live, exclusive angle of a TV event with a brand sponsor hasn't been done before by Meerkat or competitor Periscope.
Right before the bro-country duo of Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard perform, there will be a 15-second CMT spot encouraging viewers to watch the performance on Meerkat. When people clickthrough on Twitter or Facebook to watch Florida Georgia Line sing "Anything Goes," they'll be taken to a custom mobile-video page for Mountain Dew on Meerkat, and in-app notifications will include CMT and Mountain Dew branding.
"There is truly a 360-degree opportunity," said Adam Steingart, svp of integrated marketing at CMT.
Sima Sistani, Meerkat's vp of media, called it "our first official brand activation during a live broadcast."
The livestream will exist solely on Meerkat, though viewers can watch it up to a week after the performance. To be clear, Meerkat doesn't save video on its app, but it allows content creators like Mountain Dew and CMT to download it and repurpose the clip on their digital and social channels.
Like many award-show marketers, CMT is looking to up its social media game. Award shows have garnered less and less social buzz in recent years, according to Rion Martin, marketing director at data company Infegy.
"Like many award shows, the CMT Awards are being talked about less and less in social media as time has gone on," he said. "In fact, the volume of conversations went down 53 percent from 2013 to 2014."
CMT contends that social activity around the awards show has increased in recent years. Though the Viacom-owned cable channel didn't offer up specifics.
Monetizing livestreams and drawing country fans
Moving forward, the CMT-Mountain Dew effort lays out a possible blueprint of what monetization might look like for Meerkat. The mobile-tech player can partner with media companies like CNN and NBC or celebrities like Shaquille O'Neal, Madonna and Questlove Gomez, who already have relationships with brands, and then create unusually engaging video opportunities for marketers to plug into.
"We are triangulating with our partners," Sistani said. "We're about empowering creators to connect with their fans in a new way. If part of that element is monetization or connecting the dots with their brand partners, we're committed to working with them on value creation—and we're doing that. But we don't have a sales team. We're not actively in the marketplace and talking to brands [directly]."
Anyone who saw Meerkat pick up buzz in person at South by Southwest Interactive probably has a story about someone livestreaming musical performances at tech parties. The app seems to have plenty of potential when it comes to live music, with big names like U2 already using its features. They can give fans unique looks into their lives and performances while exchanging text-based messages with the audience.
But, will it take with country fans?
"We have country artists on the platform," Sistani said. "Rascal Flatts, for instance, has been Meerkating on tour."
The country-pop group has often promoted its Meerkat videos on Facebook, highlighting how the app recently integrated for distribution on the massively popular platform. Of course, country music artists and fans are very active on Facebook, and musicians like Cody Alan are pushing their Meerkat clips on Twitter, as well.
"A lot of people think country fans are not engaged—it's just the opposite," Steingart said. "They are much more [savvy] than people give them credit for, and they are all these emerging platforms."
But, after tech issues put a stop to Madonna's music video premiere on Meerkat in April, is the team confident tonight will go off without a hitch?
"Yes—very much so," said Steingart. "We had a thorough dress rehearsal yesterday that went well. We are very confident."
Sistani added, "Because of South by, everyone thinks we are this overnight success, but the truth is that it was due to a lot of work during the last three years. The technology is incredibly sound."
It will have to be if it wants to turn big brands like Starbucks and Red Bull—which already use Meerkat as a marketing platform—into paying customers like Mountain Dew.