Interview with Facebook's Kay Madati about social TV

By Natan Edelsburg Comment

Last week at NBCU’s Social TV Symposium, Kay Madati took the stage and presented Facebook’s unique approach to social TV. With over 875 million users, an upcoming IPO and a highly buzzed-about acquisition of Instagram today, Facebook isn’t just a player in the social TV world, Zuckerberg’s social experiment is the backbone.

Today, we spoke in-depth with Madati, the company’s head of entertainment strategy for just over a year, on how Facebook is making TV more social. From innovative uses of Timeline to conversations with studios about pilots during the ideation phase, Madati and his team are ensuring that TV brands are not only thinking about the “before” and “after” in their social TV strategy, but are scaling their efforts and growth along the way.

Lost Remote: We have to ask, anything you can share about today’s Instagram acquisition?

Kay Madati: I know what you know about it. I’m excited about it. I’m sure that down the line as we find out about the opportunity there’s an entertainment play.

LR : What’s your role at Facebook and what were you doing before?

KM: I oversee our entertainment and media relationships. Me and my team, spend a lot of time with television networks, movie studios and producers in Hollywood. How do we launch a film on Facebook? How do we launch a new television show on Facebook. How do we get a show to engage in between episodes.

I came from CNN, where I oversaw the social media strategy. I worked on this stuff from a content publishing end. I believe I bring that perspective to how we’ve drafted our approach and strategy. I understand the pin points and opportunities and compare that with an innate understanding of the Facebook platform and tools.

I’m really bullish that consumers will be influenced by their friends, not just entertainment habits, but everything. The ones who win will take a proactive approach in how they’re relevant in social.

LR: How does Facebook approach social TV?

KM: Facebook is the modern day iteration of the water cooler. Our users are already dialoguing around television. If the 90s were about browsing, if the new millennium was about search, today and into the future, we believe it’s about discovery. It’s structured around helping content producers surface their excellent content and leverage the idea that word-of-mouth at scale can raise brand awareness.

LR: Is innovating the program guide still important to Facebook?

KM: I would look at the program guide as one of the many ways of discoverability. If one of our ultimate goals is to increase discoverability, the program guides becomes one of many solutions. The day when you can switch on your television and let your social graph inform your social habits. It’s already happening but can be scaled. Imagine that your DVR has actively gone out and recorded certain shows based on your social sphere and recommendations.

LR: How are TV brands working with Facebook to make TV more social?

KM: There are two main points of intersections that Facebook has with television and content producers: Marketing – how do you help us increase engagement for a new show or existing show? The other way is a little more down funnel. We’ll work with a network while they’re literally in script or pilot stage, so by the time you get to market it, it’s about how do we amplify the organic elements that are already seeded.

Lisa Hsia talked about Top Chef [at the social TV symposium], The Voice is a great example, from inception was a social show. American Idol is another one. Viacom is doing a ton around Colbert and Tosh.0. People’s Choice Awards, Grammys. We are beginning to see lots of different examples in the television space.

You’ll see some networks that we’re knee deep working with the production company as they draft the scripts and create the ideas of what the pilots will be. They take a lot more time and resources and a lot more coordination. They’re generally able to build some unique iteration. That’s one end of the scale.

The other end of the scale, is the robust marketing campaign to launch a slate of shows. We’re fortunate, along that continuum, everyone from producers, to writers, to marketers and studio execs are all interested in having the conversation at different iterations.

LR: Do you think Facebook will ever try and create unique content, similar to studios and networks beyond Facebook Live?

KM: Probably no – the win here is new and innovative ways to power content producers. It isn’t necessarily about us, it’s about how consumers are interacting and consuming content. Do we have the plumbing to connect content producers and potential audiences. Fundamentally, we’re not interested in being in the content game. We want to support and connect fans to engage with them.

LR: How has the Timeline affected your conversations with TV brands?

KM: Timeline and pages for brands is a big change and big opportunity. I am really excited about the new canvas content producers have to tell their stories. The new cover photo, ability to message more personally and more directly with fans, the measurements and metrics and insights tools. All of these different activities, present a new opportunity for people in the business of telling stories.

If you haven’t seen it – Turner Broadcasting’s Dallas page, they’re re-launching Dallas in June – one of the longest-running soaps on television ever and they’re connecting the history and heritage. We sat with Turner very early on, months ago. It tells the entire story of Dallas from 1978 all the way to current day. It could have just been the show producers talking about the show. But they did it in the voice of JR. They decided to use JR’s snarky, conniving voice, to tell the story of these seminole moments in time. If you’re a fan of the written show, you’ll spend hours [on the Timeline], the deram sequences, who shot JR…

If you’re suddenly introduced [to the show], they are switching out vidoes and photos in that pin post, that pulls you to different periods of time in the timeline – one day it might be a video piece from a seminal moment that changed the trajectory of a season. They’ve really embraced the idea that this page can be dynamic, all the while building brand awareness that in June there will be a new show and a new cast and that JR will be a part of that. Really clever way that they’ve embraced a new way to tell a timeline and story.

LR: How does Facebook see TV brands different than other entertainment brands?

KM: Fundamentally, the mechanics around the best practices don’t change whether it’s film or television. You still need to focus on the most compelling and relevant information for your fans. I still believe that less is more. The shortest status updates, drive more consumer engagement than film like video units.

You need to look at all the available assets, how to tie those activities. The Television Critics Association is coming up, will be launching new shows, highlighting some current shows. Very insider event, a great opportunity to then take and amplify what they’ve just announced.

The cadence and the content publishing are fundamentally the same [for TV and film]. The timelines from when you might execute might change. Summer blockbusters see trailers as far out as six months. That extends the conversation. The TV season might be shorter.

LR: How do you approach metrics and insights with Facebook’s TV partners?

KM: If you are the admin on any page, you already know there’s a robust insights engine. I think scale on this level is important – getting to a place on a page with an adequate amount of fans, that changes with the content and network – what matters even more is how you activate influence once you have that audience. I work with our partners to grow the people talking about metrics. How many times people comment on a post, share it, interact with it – that can actually dictate what the rest of the content programming strategy will be.

The number of fans plus the PAT (People are Talking).

LR: Anything further to add?

KM: I’ll leave you with this, the framework for implementation – the before, during and after – probably simplistic but purposely so. When we talk about social TV, Facebook is looking at all of these things. Lots of activity is happening during, that’s when people are building co-viewing applications. We’ve done some great things, Twitter’s done some great things, GetGlue’s done some great things.

What I whole-on believe – too many people are missing the opportunity for the before and after. When you look at the case studies [from the NBCU social TV symposium], some of the more interesting cases were building the audience before it was on air. [For Dallas], 700,000 fans for a show that won’t launch for another two months, that’s powerful that TNT would come out this early to build an audience, leverage social. After is also just as important.

Content producers will start but then move away because of other priorities. Meanwhile that conversation in the social sphere continues, there’s an opportunity to keep people engaged. When you look at opportunities in all three quadrants, at scale, Facebook presents an unprecedented opportunity. To grow awareness and ultimately ratings and tune-in for a show.