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Future of TV Fan Engagement Ross Martin

How Viacom Lab intends to rethink fan engagement and experiences


By Adam Flomenbaum, Co-Executive Editor

May 16, 2016 | 5 min read

Viacom last week announced the creation of Viacom Lab, a new division focused on taking the fan experience and fan engagement to the next level.


The Lab will only partly rely on Viacom employees and intellectual property; projects will also be sourced via strategic partnerships with other brands and creators. One launch partner is the largest GIF platform, GIPHY, who will work with Viacom to create and distribute GIFs from fans’ favorite Viacom properties.

The new unit will report to Ross Martin, executive vice president of marketing strategy & engagement, and Kern Schireson, executive vice president of data strategy & consumer intelligence.

“The Lab embodies Viacom’s commitment to being “Fans First” in every single thing we do,” Martin tells Found Remote “The Lab reports to our fans. It’s built to reflect and empower their limitless imagination. Nothing is more important to us than having a better understanding of our fans than anyone in the world, and responding to them in the most unique and compelling ways.”

In addition to the GIPHY partnership, the Lab is also launching with livestreaming, experiential, and live animation projects; the Lab will also play host to creators-in-residence, who will be embedded there for up to six months.

While Viacom seeks to leverage the new unit to boost fan engagement for its own properties, advertisers will also have the opportunity to take advantage of its capabilities.

“The Lab is already collaborating with Viacom’s Velocity, Integrated Marketing and Ad Sales teams on several advanced advertising and marketing prototypes on all platforms,” Martin says. “Agencies and advertisers have also approached the Lab directly with joint venture opportunities, which the Lab is now considering.”

Below, full details about the Lab’s launch initatives:

GIPHY: The lab has partnered with GIPHY, the world’s only GIF platform with the largest searchable database of GIFs, to create and distribute all the GIFs from fans’ favorite hit shows – in real time and all the time – across the Viacom portfolio.

“Fanufacturing:” The Lab is developing ways to enable fans to bring their favorite characters and moments from Viacom content into the physical world across a broad range of technologies and materials.

Livestreaming: The Lab is testing a technology that will enable fans to livestream directly to a live Viacom television show, thereby creating new storytelling formats.

Experiential Fan Opportunities: Fans will have unique real life immersive experiences with opportunities to stay in replicas of places from their favorite shows and movies. The first location, available via Airbnb, is a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles lair in New York coinciding with the opening of Paramount Pictures’ and Nickelodeon Movies' feature film, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows.”

Citia: Viacom is expanding its use of Citia, a mobile-first publishing system that enables content and advertising to be instantly re-arranged and republished in multiple operating systems and social platforms. A recent pilot with MTV News saw a 20 percent spike in engagement for content utilizing Citia’s interactive “card” technology.

The lab is also partnering with creators-in-residence who will explore ideas using Viacom’s assets and resources as they embed themselves in the Lab for up to six months. The first group includes:

British neuroscientist Beau Lotto is the founder of augmented reality platform Traces, which allows users to leave content like video, audio and interactive experiences in virtual bubbles anywhere in the world. The Lab will explore opportunities to connect fans to content in new ways using Traces.

Harold Moss and Tom Vedel are founders of FlickerLab, a leading animation and technology company based in Brooklyn and Copenhagen. They have developed the live animation app Animgram, based on their proprietary technology that empowers fans and brands to create their own animation in seconds and instantly publish across all social media and broadcast platforms.

Raghava KK is a multi-disciplinary Indian artist, working in painting, film, installation, multimedia and live performance. He began as a cartoonist in 1997 with leading Indian publications. KK will explore identity construct, empathy, and interpersonal context through new forms of social storytelling.

Future of TV Fan Engagement Ross Martin

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