How social TV is growing across PromaxBDA and the Producers Guild

By Natan Edelsburg 

I’m excited to participate and moderate a panel tonight with four of television’s most impressive executives. Tina Exarhos EVP of Marketing & Multiplatform Creative for MTV: Music Television and MTV2, Alexandra Shapiro EVP of Marketing & Digital for USA Network, Guy Slattery EVP of Marketing for A&E Network and Ellen Stone SVP of Marketing for Bravo Media will be coming together and Ogilvy’s New York City HQ to discuss how digital storytelling is extending the life of a show. PromaxBDA and the Producers Guild of America New Media Council are the two organizations that have made this panel possible.

The fact that these top marketing executives in the television industry are taking the time to talk about digital storytelling and social TV is extremely important. Digital is not just a department within a network, it’s now embedded throughout the marketing goals and mix. Budgets are increasing for digital and social. Also, the life and content of a TV show are now growing farther and farther beyond linear with the help of these experts.

PromaxBDA the “International Association For Entertainment Marketing Professionals” and the Producer’s Guild the “non-profit trade group that represents, protects and promotes the interests of all members of the producing team in film, television and new media,” are making sure that social TV’s important agenda are spreading to the most important individuals in the business. We spoke with PromaxBDA CEO Jonathan Block Verk and the PGA’s Vice President of the New Media Council Chris Thomes (also the Vice President of Digital Media Studios at Disney/ABC Television Group).

Lost Remote: How has PromaxBDA invested in honoring the growth of digital storytelling? Social TV?

Jonathan Block Verk: Digital storytelling, protracting and enhancing audience engagement is at its core, a fundamental function of marketing. Whatever the tool being utilized (SocialTV, multi screen experience, mobile, gaming etc.) the focus is building and sustaining an audience base and keeping them engaged with content across myriad media platforms and outlets. PromaxBDA is about bringing the best practices to the forefront and giving our global membership opportunities to share information and exchange ideas of ways to successfully implement these toaols. Social media and Social TV has have been on our radar for many years and our events (conferences, quarterly emerging media workshops, etc.) have really helped the television marketing community gain a unique and robust understanding of how best to use the mediums and platforms at their disposal.

LR: As an international organization, how have you seen digital storytelling and social TV expand around the world?

Block Verk: The rise of social TV has allowed the viewer to be more part of the marketing campaign and process moving from a passive role to become a more integral part of the development of the overall marketing campaign. Looking at the global launches of shows like The Walking Dead and Touch premiering almost simultaneously internationally allowed the viewer to be part of a social firestorm as audiences from around the world who were logged on to popular platforms could share the experience beyond their living rooms and borders. Ultimately social TV is another tool in the arsenal of the marketing executive in a larger strategy based on “The Big Idea”.

LR: How did you get involved with the Producers Guild and when was the New Media Council launched?

Chris Thomes: The New Media Council was formed by the Producers Guild of America (PGA) in 2002, in order to recognize, represent, and protect producers working in emerging media such as DVDs, broadband and mobile entertainment, interactive television and video games. I got involved in 2006. My father-in-law, John Rappaport, is a long time-member and well-known writer producer who encouraged me to join. I quickly got very involved because the community that the PGA fosters is incredibly encouraging for young producers. It offers so many benefits, but most importantly, a network of like minded individuals, all with the same focus. New Media, while being the newest of the councils, is no exception. In fact, in 2010 the Producers Guild of America Board of Directors officially approved its New Media Code of Credits, adding twenty-six major new credits to cover new media producers. The code is significant in that it marks the first time the Producers Guild of America recognized new media producer industry credits and responsibilities in Broadband, DVD/Blu-ray, Animation, Games (console and online), Mobile, Digital Visual Effects, iTV (interactive/enhanced Television), Special Venues, and Transmedia.

LR: What’s your role at Disney/ABC Television? Do you think social TV has changed the business at all?

: My role at Disney/ABC TV Group is focused on overseeing the development and production of digital video content related to Disney/ABC’s television properties. Regarding social TV, “talking” about television has always happened. Now, the conversation simply includes wider groups of people. Social Media around TV has evolved those conversations. It’s not just my Aunt Viola and my mom talking about a show last night over dinner. It’s now the entire family and extended friends sharing the conversation. What networks have learned is that in order to foster these conversations, though, you still not only need good shows, but you need “social objects” that help spin the conversations along. Quotes, behind-the-scenes information, news, original video, etc. These are all greater conversation spinners and are very important for networks now. You can’t simply market tune-in information. You need more, legitimate and interesting things to say in order to get a response. After all, it’s a conversation, not a commercial. It takes resources to generate these objects though, so you will see more investment in that area as social TV evolves – perhaps even story-telling itself.

LR: How has the role of a TV producer changed in the age of the social web?

Thomes: I would say the role of producer is the same as it ever was. The venues now for distribution are simply different and there is now a two-way conversation happening with social. A good producer simply adjusts to those circumstances. We will soon be at a point where calling a producer a “transmedia producer” won’t be appropriate. It will just be the way they think. So to that extent, I would say that there are a lot of producers who are in the process of learning how to change workflows on productions to accommodate social. From budgets and resourcing to how deals get done, the creation of ancillary content and material for social distribution around an intellectual property will continue to be a part of the overall production mixture. The producers who will do best in this new space are the ones who are just good producers. They problem solve, over-communicate, and look at the big picture, keeping in mind the “why” of “what” they do – which is to tell great stories.