Why the social TV industry should pay attention to Israel’s Keshet Media Group

By Natan Edelsburg 

Lost Remote recently participated in an amazing trip to Israel to take a look at social TV companies that have helped mold a “Startup Nation.” At the end of the trip we met with Keshet Media Group, Israel’s leading media company which was established in 1993. We interviewed Ronnie Noy, Keshet TV’s Head of Cross Media and Adi Guy, Keshet TV’s Head of Social Media about the company’s social TV growth and innovation.

Ari Emanuel and the INTV speakers with Israeli President Shimon Peres. -INTV’s Facebook page

The past year alone has been extremely impressive for Keshet Media Group. Their global arm, Keshet International recently completed their first major Innovation TV conference (INTV) in Jerusalem. The intimate gathering boasted Ari Emanuel, the famous Co-CEO of WME as the headliner. Also, Keshet’s expertise in selling TV formats abroad grew tremendously as Homeland became arguably, the most popular drama in the US. A recent article from the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz describes  the event and “why the world is watching Israeli TV”:

“The event was organized by Keshet Media group, whose CEO Avi Nir is perhaps Israeli entertainment’s ultimate success story. Nir is a producer of the blockbuster American television show ‘Homeland,’ now in its second season and starring Claire Danes and Mandy Patinkin and based on the original Hebrew-language Keshet series ‘Hatufim.'”

“Hatufim,” also know as “Prisoners of War” grew so popular that it also became the first non-English language show to launch exclusively on Hulu. Also, parts of Homeland were even shot in Israel. In this photo from the beginning of season two you can even see a t-shirt with “Coca Cola” written in Hebrew in what was supposed to be Beirut.

Within Israel, Keshet TV is the leading network and has built an expertise in social TV across apps, the way they work with startups, the way they leverage the second screen, work with talent and how they deliver content across multiple platforms. Noy and Guy explained to Lost Remote how each division within the company works very closely to deliver the best experiences to both fans, viewers and advertisers that leverage their reach on the main screen and across the web.

How Keshet approaches working with startups:

Keshet both embraces the immense amount of startup innovation in Israel, while also being careful to make each partnership authentic and unique. “Since we’re a startup nation, we’re looking for new startups,” Noy told Lost Remote. “Most of the best startups that we collaborate with in the end didn’t think they would be in the entertainment industry,” she explained. She smartly added that, “when a startup says this is special for television for this and this and for that – usually it doesn’t work – the way they see television from their technological point of view and the way we see television from our creative view, is a little different.”

We asked Noy how large their in house development is versus working with outside parties. “It’s all in house developers,” she explained. “When we come to a certain startup – it never ends up as the product they offer, it always has to go through our adjustments and all these adjustments are developed in house,” she told Lost Remote. “We have the largest selection of apps from an Israeli media developer on the App Store.”

Building Mako to one of the largest destinations on the web in Israel:

Around three years ago Keshet launched Mako, a portal that has now become the third largest website in the country. Noy described the launch of Mako and how their digital innovation began years before. “Mako was created three years ago but Keshet has had a digital division since I think 2001,” she explained. “[Keshet] was the first broadcaster to have websites for each program and Mako became an independent brand three years ago with independent content,” she added.

She also described why they decided to launch a new website with a new brand at all. “The world changed so we changed with it – content consumption habits have changed, people have changed and we want to reach all those people,” she told Lost Remote. “We have the massive amount of people who watch TV in Israel so we had to have the massive amount of people who consume the internet,” she added. “It’s the third largest website in Israel – The two other websites are very well established for over a decade, in just three years we became the third largest portal.”

How Keshet is using social platforms:

Guy who heads up social media for Keshet TV described the network’s presence on social platforms. She manages their dozens of pages and she described that “we also run pages of shows that are not on air right now.” We asked which show had the biggest social presence. “Basically, Big Brother is the biggest TV show page in Israel with almost 300,000 likes,” Guy told Lost Remote. She also added that “the Mako page, will reach 500,000 likes soon – it’s the largest community for a website.”

Guy also described how Keshet engages viewers. “I’m trying to give our viewers an entire world of content and added value,” she explained. “We engage a lot on Facebook – we host all the talent on the relevant pages to speak with the audience, we use our audience posts and comments on air and more,” she added.

More impressive is that they do everything in-house. Guy described one of their biggest social TV activations for a political show called “Polishook“. “Last season [the main character] ran for government – on Facebook, we asked people to vote for him and work for him and in the final episode, we put all the friends from his Facebook page and we showed their pictures and names in a video – this was a way for us to connect with our audience,” Guy Described. “We aired this on TV too – we do lots of things like this, we told them – if you want to be on TV, give the Prime Minister your advice [on Facebook] and maybe you’ll be on air.”

Investing in Instagram to make their programming more social:

Most recently their team has watched the growth of Instagram in Israel create a unique social TV opportunity. “We started using Instagram a few months ago, it’s getting bigger,” Guy told Lost Remote. “We started with a few shows.. it’s added value – pictures from behind the scenes and all kinds of stuff and we also use it on air,” she added.

They’re using Instagram in a big way, that involves traditional media for their new season of Master Chef. “For the new season of Master Chef, we contacted TimeOut in Israel and we asked the viewers in Israel to send pictures of their food using #MasterChef,” Guy explained. “Every week TimeOut published their favorite pictures and by the end of season we will make an exhibition of all the pictures,” she added. Noy also explained that “we also invited major photographers to come on set to take photographs.”

An example for TV networks in the US to look at:

TV networks in the US should not only be looking at this large and impressive entertainment company to see what the hottest new programming will be. The social TV executives within Keshet have proven how important it is to have an app and startup work well with the network’s brand and content. They’ve also proven how successful they can be when keeping developers and creative in-house. Instagram will be one of the biggest social TV platforms of the next year and Keshet has shown how using photos creatively can also be a great opportunity to partner with major press. Next time you’re in Israel, stop by their offices in north Tel Aviv and you’ll see that they even have the pictures of their Facebook fans pinned against the wall.