In his role at cable television channel USA Network, Jesse Redniss heads digital strategy for the network’s portfolio of TV shows. More recently, Redniss, along with some large brand advertisers, spearheaded a number of innovative social TV efforts. He spoke with eMarketer’s Lauren McKay about USA’s social TV activations and why the network is seeing more brand advertisers become interested in infusing TV programs with social media.
eMarketer: How does USA Network approach social TV?
Jesse Redniss: We are looking at social TV to extend our storytelling capabilities. That’s derived from the show creative, producers and writers. And then we work with all that content and our talent to start figuring out the right creative executions for the fan base. We’ve launched six shows this summer season and each show property has its own unique social TV offering. In a way, social TV has become an umbrella philosophy or strategy for USA’s digital, social and mobile executions.
eMarketer: USA Network launched its own social platform, Character Chatter, two years ago. How have brands gotten involved in that platform?
Redniss: The Character Chatter platform has become the central hub for real-time participation while our shows are on. It’s an aggregation of real-time conversation from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube videos, Get Glue check-ins, Viggle check-ins; it continues to gain a lot of momentum and popularity.
“The Character Chatter platform has become the central hub for real-time participation while our shows are on.”
A lot of other networks are launching very similar community-building platforms. CBS just announced its CBS Connect platform, for example. We’re trying to bring brand advertisers into the conversation. When the Ford Fusion, for example, is integrated into an episode of “White Collar,” it’s then easy for us to promote that positioning or brand integration in platforms like Character Chatter. When working with advertisers we take a “created with” approach. We don’t want people to view something as an ad, we want people to view it as added content to their “White Collar” show experience.
eMarketer: What other social TV brand programs have you launched?
Redniss: For Ford and “White Collar,” we created a very deep, immersive gaming experience tied to the show. The game is a treasure hunt that takes place around the country. The Ford vehicle is an integral part of using the map function and some of the Ford brand positioning enhances the map experience.
We’re also doing an interesting choose-your-own-adventure video series with Capital One and the show “Covert Affairs.” Fans can come in and decide the outcome of the videos—whether the characters turn left or right. We are putting the story in the hands of users and viewers to be active participants in how the story unfolds.
eMarketer: Do you have any examples of using second-screen apps?
Redniss: We launched a Viggle program for “Covert Affairs ” with Capital One. Viewers using the Viggle platform can access interesting plot points, Q&As, live polls—things like that—while watching the show. Because Capital One’s brand positioning is Double Rewards, using the Viggle platform actually makes a lot of sense. As viewers check into the “Covert Affairs” show and earn rewards, we’re offering Viggle users double points on the platform as well as double points on the USA affinity platform, Covert Operatives.
“The second-screen execution provided fans with extra, behind-the-scenes content they couldn’t get unless they were participating in the app.”
eMarketer: USA has also tested ads that synchronize to TV spots in real time. What success have you had with that?
Redniss: We did a few test executions with SecondScreen Networks and saw promising results. We launched it with “Necessary Roughness” and our brand advertiser Lincoln at the end of last year. The second-screen execution provided fans with extra, behind-the-scenes content they couldn’t get unless they were participating in the app.
I think we’ll start using more of this technology once it becomes easier to implement on the media-trafficking side. The key is getting the on-air 30-second spot to then trigger a second-screen digital execution. You have to have an ad agency that understands how to actually slot all that together as one common execution.
eMarketer: Do you have any other predictions for how social TV is going to play out? Any opportunities that you think are untapped at the moment?
Redniss: The term social TV is just going to go away. It’s going to become the way that we all do creative executions across multiple platforms while engaging with users. I also think we are going to see an adoption explosion as cable companies start devising more second-screen companion experiences and the electronic programming guides include some type of visual indicator letting subscribers know of the enhanced program that goes along with the show.
All the big cable companies are talking about striking deals with Facebook and Twitter. Channel surfing will become very social and personal. You’ll be able to go to the program guide and see that three of your friends are logged on with Facebook and are watching “Top Chef.” You can then watch with them and interact with them. It will be exciting on a number of levels, because it will legitimize the space. It will also showcase the programs in a way that every American is used to: channel surfing.
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