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TV and Social Media Converge at Oscars and GRAMMYs -> Cisco News

March 3, 2011

TV and Social Media Converge at Oscars and GRAMMYs -> Cisco News.

Panelists at a Digital LA event in Hollywood discuss

Digital LA panelists discuss “TV Goes Social,” including Albert Cheng of Disney/ABC Television Group (second from left) and Evan Greene of The GRAMMYs (second from right).


March 3, 2011

By Laurence Cruz

When the big-screen glitterati, thousands of fans and a sizable chunk of the world’s attention converged on Hollywood for the 83rd Academy Awards ceremony last Sunday, a convergence of another kind also went into overdrive: TV and social media.

This year’s Oscars took that convergence to a whole new level, giving fans the opportunity to track the stars on TV, online and on mobile devices via 20 – 30 live-stream cameras and a maelstrom of interactive social media. The Twitterverse went into a frenzy with feeds from “Mominees” (moms of Oscar nominees), celebrities on the red carpet and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). Play-along games allowed users to track their success in picking out Oscar winners and to vote on celebrities’ dresses. Social media sharing opportunities abounded. And that was just for starters.

In the run-up to the big event, users could feast on a smorgasbord of curated content about the nominees, pick winners and catch fresh video content daily in a “Road to the Oscars” web series. And after the awards, live TV cameras even gave users fly-on-the-wall access to the Governor’s Ball after-party and to the little-known ritual in which the winning stars’ nameplates are affixed to the Oscar statuettes while they wait.

“Social media is playing a huge role in driving interest and buzz.”

— Albert Cheng, executive vice president, digital media for Disney/ABC Television Group

“It is by far probably the biggest online live thing we’ve done,” said Albert Cheng, who is executive vice president of digital media for Disney/ABC Television Group and manages online for the Oscars, the American Music Awards and Country Music Awards.

Speaking on a recent Digital LA panel on the theme of “TV Goes Social” in Los Angeles, Cheng said last year’s awards marked the first time social media was used in a live production environment at the Oscars—for example, by having hosts interview stars on the red carpet using questions posted by fans on Facebook. But this year, he said, there was a much greater effort to make fans feel they were part of the event, with opportunities for deep engagement all the way from nominations to the red carpet to the telecast itself.

“In the old days of the Oscars, people watched it on a TV set from afar,” Cheng said. “This is the first time we’re actually bringing the user into the Oscars.”

Another major awards ceremony that saw a new level of convergence of TV and social media this year was the GRAMMYs. The 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards ceremony that took place Feb. 13 in Los Angeles was the culmination of a yearlong social media campaign that aligned with advertising campaigns and engaged fans in a deeper, more holistic way than ever before, said Evan Greene, chief marketing officer for the GRAMMYs and another Digital LA panelist.

A highlight of the campaign allowed fans and music artists alike to plot their “musical journey” by sharing video and other content relating to key musical moments in their life – a U2 concert at the Staples Center in 2005, for example. Users could view each other’s journeys on an interactive, Augmented Reality-enabled map accessed via a mobile app and dynamic microsite, and could share journeys with their entire social ecosystem through Facebook and Twitter (see video). Expanding on the theme, three 30-second TV spots highlighted the musical journeys of GRAMMY nominees Eminem, Katy Perry and Cee Lo Green.

“The campaign is an extension of a digital strategy that takes place all throughout the year” and involves “spirited, organic, dynamic and respectful” engagement with over 100,000 Twitter followers and nearly 200,000 Facebook fans, Greene said.

Both campaigns appeared to be successful (though at the time of writing this, the Oscars ceremony had not yet taken place). But some of the metrics are hard to read, the panelists said.

“Social media is playing a huge role in driving interest and buzz,” Cheng said, noting that the social media-friendly Oscar website ( was seeing a 250 percent increase in referral traffic from Facebook and a 200 percent increase in referral traffic from Twitter in the days leading up to the awards ceremony. But that still only accounted for a small percentage of traffic on the site – about 5 percent from Facebook and 1 percent from Twitter, Cheng said. Compare that to 40 percent from search, which is driven by the Oscar brand, he said.

“It will be interesting over time watching how that share grows,” Cheng said. “Will social media be the primary driver or will it be the brand? It’s still in debate.”

Greene said this year’s GRAMMY telecast was broadcast to 170 countries and saw ratings increase to the highest number in 11 years, topping an extraordinary increase last year. In 2010, Nielsen ratings for the awards show climbed more than 35 percent over 2009, and more than 32 percent for that hard-to-reach demographic of teens and young adults, Greene said. This year’s ratings were up 3 percent over last year and more than 4 percent for teens and young adults, he said.

“Social media is a major tool in mobilizing this audience to care again in a pretty meaningful and significant way about what we’re doing,” Greene said, referring to teens and young adults. He added that Nielsen is just one of numerous metrics his team tracks to gauge the overall success of the campaign.

“It’s a new world order so all the metrics have changed,” he said. “We realize there’s a whole story out there besides what Nielsen tells us the story is.”

Cheng said it’s tough to link social media metrics with ratings, especially given it’s only the second year there has been an Oscars social media campaign. Looking at year-over-year growth and trending will be essential to determine impact, he said. But he was clear about the general direction of social media efforts.

“We really believe that the future of awards telecasts should be about bringing our community together and feeling part of the event,” he said.

Laurence Cruz is a freelance writer in Los Angeles.

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