When Livestream Goes Linear | V by Viacom

When Livestream Goes Linear

How “real-time” connectivity is finding its place on TV.

Mar 14, 2017

With our hyper-curated news feeds and entertainment options, much of the world now wants—and expects—their lives to be tailored to their individual preferences. And from sneakers to spin class, brands are readily meeting their demands.

Even within the entertainment industry the expectation is that personalization comes with increased engagement, especially in TV. Marketers now assume that if their advertising is more personalized, their audiences will be more active viewers. If passive viewing is the enemy of success, then livestreaming is the natural next step; it’s interactive, personalized and curated.

The appeal of livestreaming is often the “realness” it represents, as well as the freedom it gives content creators to color outside the lines. After all, branded livestreams are the exception—tools like Facebook Live are primarily used to broadcast everyday people’s authentic experiences, from birthdays to breaking news. It’s why brands like General Electric, Dunkin Donuts and Adidas continue to explore its impact, and why marketers tend to use it as the go-to tool for fashion shows, concerts and sporting events.

But at Viacom Labs (the company’s incubator for developing new forms of fan engagement for its brands), a bigger question still remained: what could livestreaming bring to traditional TV that hadn’t been done before? For Labs Co-Head Susan Claxton, it was all about “taking what our fans like about livestreaming—which is the authenticity and spontaneity—and giving it the scale of linear television programming.”

The obvious choice was MTV’s music video broadcasts. As programming that already elicits active engagement (given the proliferation of music video dance tutorials currently on Youtube), it naturally lent itself to the idea of fans livestreaming themselves interacting with what they saw on screen. And while it’s fun to watch a celebrity livestreaming on your Twitter feed, it’s even more fun to see yourself on television alongside your favorite music artist.

To accomplish this, the Labs partnered with MTV Australia and German company Make TV for a test run. The test took place over one hour on MTV Australia’s music video block with the hashtag #MTVStepUp. Fans from all over the world livestreamed themselves rocking out alongside their favorite music videos. The tech worked, and as a result, MTV Australia is now planning on expanding livestreamed programming over the course of this year.

“What we were able to do is give livestreaming the reach of television,” explains Kiel Berry, Viacom Labs Co-Head. “From a marketing perspective, bringing it into a television format has the potential of providing brands with more scale when it comes to other parts of their campaigns.”

But livestreaming won’t earn its place as a major media player until it moves beyond a niche audience. While Berry doesn’t believe that campaigns should utilize only livestreams as they currently exist, he does see livestreams as a conduit to another consumer action or a boost to audience recall.

“I think the livestream fills a certain slot in a campaign. Then it becomes a conversation about how you fill out the rest of those slots,” he asserts.

Case in point: Snickers not only broadcast a live commercial during this year’s Super Bowl LI, but they also did a 36-hour livestream leading up to its premiere. Ultimately, the livestream existed to support the live television commercial and its story, serving as a countdown of sorts as well as a narrative expansion for interested viewers. A representative for the brand broke it down in Adweek, saying that the livestream is part of a “fully integrated 360 campaign to reinforce the brand’s connection to hunger satisfaction.”

Livestreaming continues to make its mark on the media landscape even though it’s still in its nascent stages. By cutting out the middleman and allowing brands to approach their fans on a one-to-one level, you can succeed in giving them the ability to make it personalized. And when this individual approach is combined with the scale of television? Brands can introduce a new level of fan engagement that not only grabs their attention, but also empowers audiences to own the experience too.