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What's coming to TV? - Five takeaways from NBC, Syfy & MTV executives at The Drum’s Found Remote fall TV preview

Digital execs from the likes of NBC, Syfy and MTV gathered at The Drum’s inaugural Found Remote event in NYC on Thursday to discuss what’s in store for fall TV.

Found Remote’s executive editors Natan Edelsburg and Adam Flomenbaum hosted a panel where topics including changing viewing habits, innovative social strategies and new programming were discussed.

Even as networks incorporate popular platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat into their marketing efforts, they’re also forced to compete against these very platforms for eyeballs, which often puts them in a tough situation.

Tom Fishman, vice president of audience growth and engagement at MTV, put it bluntly when discussing the network’s strategy: “The hope is to get a 15-year-old to look up from their phone.”

Below are five takeaways from the event:

Relevancy equals ratings and revenue

Michael Scogin, vice president of late night for NBC Entertainment Digital, said it’s important to keep the three ‘Rs’ in mind when determining how to tackle social – relevancy, ratings, and revenue.

“If you drive relevancy, you’re going to drive ratings and revenue,” he said. Scogin, who works on SNL, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and Late Night With Seth Meyers, said that the three shows differ in terms of how long they’ve been around and therefore their comfort levels in terms of social media.

Certain shows lend themselves more easily to social than others, particularly ones whose stars already have a large social presence on their own -- making things a bit easier for networks. Jimmy Fallon, for example, has been widely commended for keeping his late-night show relevant in social spheres.

“Jimmy personally is really into this stuff. It’s not an act. He finds stuff before we do,” Scogin said.

Sometimes less is more

TruTV is bringing back Billy on the Street this fall for a fourth season. It originally aired on Fuse for its first three seasons and now that truTV has picked it up, consumer marketing director Amy Schuster said they’re not treating it like a fourth season but rather like a premiere.

“It hasn’t gotten the mass tune-in we think he [Billy] deserves,” Schuster said, before adding that the network wasn’t looking to re-create Billy – instead, they plan to let him speak for himself.

“Billy owns all of his social channels, so we don’t want to take over that,” she said.

Taking risks is paramount

Since networks are no longer just competing with one another, trying to capture viewer attention is becoming increasingly difficult every year as more and more social platforms pop up.

To shake things up a bit, the Travel Channel is airing a 12-hour show – with no commercials – on Black Friday this year that will feature a road trip across America.

Director of convergent media at Travel Channel's parent company Scripps Networks Interactive Chad Parizman said even though a full day of commercial-free programming may cause ad sales teams to groan, that doesn’t mean there aren’t advertising opportunities.

“What car are we going to drive? What kind of places are we going to get breakfast or lunch?” he said, noting that there are a number partnership opportunities in the native realm for a show like this.

“This is not something that we normally do. We’re really betting big,” he acknowledged.

In terms of social, they’re planning to provide viewers with a ‘complimentary second screen experience’ which could include something like ‘pick your own ultimate road trip music.’

Social provides untraditional – yet effective – opportunities for marketing

To generate buzz around Childhood’s End, which is premiering later this year on Syfy, the network launched an unusual social campaign at San Diego’s Comic Con earlier this month.

Going along with the eerie theme of the show – which is about a utopian society gone wrong – the network started doing things for people that would only happen in a so-called ‘utopian’ world. Syfy had 'Utopians' walking around paying for people’s lunch bills, getting attendees into exclusive panels, and giving them collector’s items.

Guests were then encouraged to go to Twitter with the hashtag ‘#ThankYouKarellen’ when something nice had been done for them.

Director of digital and social at Syfy Doreen Rokhsar said it was unclear to Comic Con attendees what exactly was going on – but that was the intention.

“We wanted to make a meaningful impact on consumers versus just going out in a traditional manner,” she said.

The campaign went a step further when protesters started a backlash against the 'Utopians' using the hashtag ‘#AtWhatCost’ – trying to convince people that nothing comes for free and that no one should trust the 'Utopians.

Finally, there was a reveal at the end of Comic Con where Syfy got in touch with anyone who had engaged with the hashtags and sent them a trailer of the show.

Find your social strengths

For some networks, developing a comprehensive social strategy can be tough if viewers feel like they're already getting what they're looking for from TV. Take CNBC for example, which is geared towards people looking for straight business news.

“It’s all hardcore business news. People who literally make the world go around watch CNBC,” said director of social media strategy and innovation at CNBC Anna Gonzalez.

Yet Gonzalez noted that a lot of people watching CNBC are also aspirational business men and women who are looking for ways to further their careers. And that’s where social comes in – it gives the network an opportunity to connect with people who view CNBC as a way to learn more and educate themselves.

“How do we help people who want to make it get to where they want to be?” she said of their social strategy.

Keep up to date with the latest news in social TV by checking out The Drum's Found Remote blog.

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