How can TV firms and games companies work together to drive engagement in interesting ways? A session at MIPCube this afternoon explained, with Lisa Hsia, executive vice president of digital media at Bravo, and Nathon Gunn, CEO of Social Game Universe. The session was moderated by Robert Tercek.
Hsia kicked off, noting that “the audience tend to be way ahead of us” when it comes to interactivity. Bravo was one of the first broadcasters that tried to combine Facebook and Twitter in one experience for viewers of its shows, and also one of the first to launch its own second-screen app for iPad.
“I really believe that social can drive scale,” she said, noting that Bravo has worked hard to teach its talent how to use Twitter and other social networks, and incentivise them too – it created a leaderboard for the stars of its Real Housewives show that made it clear who had the most followers, for example.
Bravo has launched a transmedia app for its Top Chef show. “We had to create some kind of digital video that was meaningful,” she said. Bravo created a companion digital series for Top Chef called The Last Chance Kitchen, where the contestants who got kicked off competed in a new competition to get back into the show.
“I expected at best that we would maybe get a million streams,” she said. “In the end we got over eight million streams over 12 weeks – the highest streamed series in all of NBCUniversal’s history… 26% of the on-air TV-watching audience was watching The Last Chance Kitchen.”
Gunn spoke next, noting that more than 100m people play games on social networks in the US alone, while more than 300m people play social games publisher Zynga’s games globally. “Lots of games have actually got bigger audiences than prime-time TV!”
Social Game Universe worked with Lionsgate on a Facebook social game for Dirty Dancing, which attracted more than one million users in its beta period, generating around $18 per paying user – he didn’t say what proportion of the million paid though.
Both Hsia and Gunn talked about the opportunities in social gaming to dig into detailed analytics on audience behaviour in real-time, seeing what they’re doing in a game, then tweak and check the results.
Does Hsia’s colleagues in Bravo’s TV department find all this interesting? “No,” she laughed, before rowing back. “The production staff are starting to see the value of what we do, because it’s affecting ratings.”
She also noted that TV companies must realise that a social game isn’t a one-off project: keeping it alive and fresh from month to month requires ongoing investment, otherwise players will fall away.
“We TV people are really not experts in social gaming. You have to have a partner in there, and respect them,” she added.
Gunn gave an example that can cause tension: social games players want to be able to change the outcome. “That’s been a big hurdle to get over, but when people get that, you can still honour a brand,” he said. Hsia chimed in: “There is not really an end… A lot of it is about creating a perfect world, your own experience.”
The conversation moved on to gamification – “Not just an ugly word, but an ugly concept” suggested Tercek, who suggested it often “turns the audience into click-monkeys”. What does Hsia think? She explained that Bravo is actively looking to use game-like mechanics in its social media campaigns, but hasn’t found the right partner yet.
“One of the biggest challenges I face… is finding a loyalty system that’s really sticky, that really gives you something more than a badge, that creates more usage and which could potentially be linked from a brand perspective to physical rewards.”
Could social games come back the other way – FarmVille becoming a TV show, for example, or a broadcaster like Bravo debuting a new format as a social game to build an audience before airing its show?
Hsia said that’s not really happening yet, but “social gaming gives us a lot of opportunity for that”. She added that Bravo is launching a social game for Real Housewives this summer, where events in the show will also take place in the game. The ultimate aim: “Potentially reach gamers to come back to Real Housewives [on TV].”