MTV makes major investment in fan engagement for 'The Shannara Chronicles' as network transforms for younger generations

Tomorrow is a big day for MTV. After 18 months of planning (on the social and digital side) The Shannara Chronicles will premiere at 10pm Eastern. The series, based on the popular book series by Terry Brooks and executive produced by Jon Favreau, takes place thousands of years in the future where elves and humans set out to prevent a demon army from taking over.

The network is smartly airing the two hour event after the new season of Teen Wolf premiers to help with ratings, but do ratings really matter anymore for "The Founder Generation" that watches? Unforuntately, from a business perspective the answer is still yes but that is slowly changing. For example, even though MTV's ratings were down year over year from the highly anticipated Miley Cyrus extravaganza, it was the most tweeted about non-sports event ever.

MTV's digital strategy and fan engagement teams have been working tirelessly at preparing for the show by cultivating the alrady existing fanbase, identifying new ones and taking big risks (like actually sending a digital producer to New Zealand where the show films). Found Remote interviewed MTV Director of Digital Strategy and Fan Engagement Matt McDonough about their tremendous efforts to help make this show a success including a custom partnership with Twitter and exclusive digital content.

Found Remote: What are some of the highlights of what MTV has been doing to promote The Shannara Chronicles on digital and social so far?

Matt McDonough: We’ve been working on this show on the digital side for over 18 months now, planning for January 5th. One of the most exciting things we’ve done in my opinion is sending a dedicated digital video producer to New Zealand for four months to capture behind-the-scenes assets. Putting dedicated on-the-ground resources towards this show has allowed us to create packages on the same cinematic scale that the show achieves.

FR: This show is unique for MTV, what have you learned about the type of fan cultures and audience around it?

MM: We’ve been entrenched in different fandoms since MTV first started producing scripted programming. What makes Shannara fans unique from even other fantasy franchise is that they’ve been waiting for this for 38 years. While we’ve done a lot of legwork to promote to relevant genre audiences like “Lord of the Rings” and “Game of Thrones,” the endorsement of that core, book audience is crucial. One interesting thing we’ve learned is that fans of the books are more open to creative liberties than we originally anticipated – they’re so excited to see the world come to life, that like with “Game of Thrones,” they’re open to character or story changes that are necessary with a film or TV adaptation.

FR: Plans for the premiere in January?

MM: We’re partnering with Twitter to create a custom activation that allows fans to unlock never-before-seen content on premiere day. There’s also an exciting stunt in the works that allows fans to view early episodes digitally before their linear premieres. You can expect to see bold digital placements across premiere day that really speak to our audiences’ touchpoints.

FR: Have the actors been supportive on social?

MM: Absolutely. There are a lot of fresh faces on this series, and it’s always fun to build an actor’s fanbase from the ground up. We’re also extremely lucky to have such heavy-hitting talent behind the scenes – Terry Brooks, Jon Favreau, Al Gough and Miles Millar have been essential in getting fans excited. Having the author teaming up with the creators of “Smallville,” and the director of “Iron Man” builds a lot of credibility to say the least.

FR: Was it a challenge with the show not being too close to an MTV tent pole like the VMAs?

MM: Luckily, we were able to use the VMAs as a launch point for our campaign, instead of the series itself. But I think we’re actually launching it behind our strongest tentpole for this fans of this genre – “Teen Wolf.”

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