Viacom is focusing on creating a “social currency around its programmes” as it looks to boost brand awareness by “being a part of the conversation” and remaining “topical”.
Speaking from the MTV EMAs in Bilbao, Spain, Viacom Velocity’s vice-president of creative and integrated marketing, Russell Samuel, says it’s vital to “be where the audience is”. This means Vicacom’s portfolio has to have a strong presence both on-screen and off-screen to trigger these conversations.
“Entertainment is the social currency of choice, people talk about what they see, what they do, what they hear. At Viacom we’ve got this portfolio of global media brands that have a stable of iconic characters and shows that live across all screens, but also beyond the screen,” he says.
Viacom’s strategy is to put brands at the heart of the conversation, and it is doing so by utilising its “powerful” portfolio of entertainment assets to drive relevant entertainment-led communications.
“We have these global media brands that have huge broadcast networks and footprints but are also highly social and we have strategic plans in place with all our social partners in order to ensure our properties live beyond the screen,” he adds.
Viacom’s portfolio includes a host of global brands such as MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount Pictures and Channel 5, which Samuel says is great in some aspects but also makes it hard to create a cohesive message and speak to such a broad range of audiences.
Entertainment is the social currency of choice, people talk about what they see, what they do, what they hear.
Russell Samuel, Viacom Velocity
Given the wide array of brands it owns, he says it can also be complex choosing where to publish content and in which markets.
“Because of the number of platform opportunities we’re working with and due to the amount of content we’re creating it can be challenging to create a strategy around that,” Samuel says.
“It does get more complex [as you grow your portfolio] but in a way there are more opportunities for us and that’s very exciting. We must be able to test and learn.”
He adds that Viacom is continuing to see validation through the growth of the audience and levels of engagement. For instance, the broadcaster now has almost one billion followers across social media, while MTV alone reaches 180 countries and 450 million homes around the world.
TV vs Live Streaming
During its 25-year history, the youth brand’s European Music Awards have gone through a number of changes, triggered in part by the rise of streaming and on-demand service.
So when it comes to where to publish content Viacom is experimenting with live streaming platforms as it looks to cater for its core demographic during events like the MTV EMAs. However, Samuel claims TV is still in high demand.
“Live broadcast and catch-up make up the majority of screen time but I think the key for our approach for working with advertising, is moments still matter and people want to be part of that conversation,” he explains, before suggesting TV is “complemented by other opportunities”.
“We need to ensure all our properties are topical.”
Samuel admits the most important thing about the EMAs is finding brands that align with MTV and Viacom’s core message. For instance, this year Viacom partnered with live streaming app TikTok in order to bring the awards to life. The red carpet was also streamed via Virgin and BSkyB.
“Ten years ago ‘Isle of MTV’ was a big concert and a TV highlight show, a decade on and it’s a live to air broadcast, a TV highlights show, a live stream and a Facebook Live,” Samuel says.
“So each year it’s about looking and identify the additional opportunities and how they plug in to the content story.”
Additionally, while Russell did not elaborate when asked whether Viacom would like to offer a streaming service of its own or whether it is looking to form more partnerships, the network has recently joined forces with Facebook Watch to broadcast MTV programme, ‘The Real World’.
“We’re absolutely in that space and talking to appropriate partners,” Samuel adds.
The new series was produced specifically for Facebook Watch’s audiences in the US, Mexico and Thailand in a bid to catch the attention of a new generation of viewers.
On top of this, Viacom entered into a partnership with Netflix this year, offering the streaming giant branded content which includes a Nickelodeon series exclusively produced for Netflix.
The move followed the news that Viacom’s revenue declined in the latest quarter, falling 3.8% year on year to $3.24bn, due to lower international sales from its film division which includes Paramount Pictures.
Putting a value on micro assets
There’s a continued shift of broadcasters looking into engagement rather than just viewing metrics, according to Samuel who adds Viacom is trying to “put a value on ‘depth of engagement’ rather than just impressions” but that it’s also important to “strike a balance”.
“That all comes back to the importance of entertainment, engaging an audience and making sure your brands add value to that experience,” he says.
He believes over the next year Viacom, alongside other broadcasting giants, will make use of the smaller “micro assets” associated with a big event, suggesting that how they’re tapping into “shared moments” is evolving.
“People are coming together but breaking off after these shared moments and having multiple smaller conversations within their social networks and using that entertainment moment for social currency,” he says.
“For example, around the EMAs it’s important to provide assets for the audience.”
Samuel notes that forming a partnership with Gify during a previous EMAs event allowed the broadcaster to explore how the audience used those assets and whether it drove conversations.
“It’s looking at the macro and the micro at the same time. You might be planning a big macro moment like the EMAs but we must look at how those micro assets can help create a social currency around the brand,” he concludes.