News & Views

Opinion / The New Power of Here and Now

by Silvia Antunes

When on demand doesn’t seem like such a good deal

When it comes to entertainment, the popularity of the on demand offer is unquestionable: Netflix now accounts for one third of all US internet traffic. The availability and quality of Netflix’s content means that we are unlikely to hear people moan ‘Tuesday night TV sucks’ any longer. So if all this brilliant content is at our fingertips, FOMO is now on the endangered species list, right?

Well, the likes of video sharing and live stream apps such as Snapchat, Periscope and Meerkat show the flip side of our current perception of time, building their cases on the value of ephemerality rather than unlimited viewing opportunities. And our concerns change from Fear Of Missing Out to the Big Bad Spoiler Monster .

The entertainment industry has found many ways to feed on – and profit from – the anticipation of the opening night, with content that makes you want to be there and feel part of it. Especially if ‘it’ means tweeting or having a frame by frame discussion on Whatsapp with fellow addicts about House of Cards S03/E01. It’s not by chance that TV experts are calling that kind of scene or conversation a ‘tweet spot’: that sweet spot of content that will inspire millions of fans to say something about the show and keep that fire burning.

Recently, the comedy show Parks and Recreation developed a strategy to promote its season finale, using what NBC chairman Robert Greenblatt called the power of “eventizing”. Greeblatt explains that, ‘In an effort to give it the send-off it deserves, we wanted to “eventize” the final season to maximize the impact of these episodes, which really do take the show to a new level.’

Experiencing a highly anticipated episode with the rest of the community expands the sense of belonging that was once only felt amongst a close social circle. To give you a little local flavour, in South America soap operas are a very big thing. Historically, this format has set records for TV rankings and cultural relevance, but the 6-day-a-week, 9-month-long format is now experiencing a loss of interest, especially among young people.

At the end of last year, prime time soap opera Avenida Brasil reversed the format’s decline with its consistently engaging plotlines. The show became a trending topic, the biggest villain became a meme, and everyone was talking about it. The content was exported to many countries – in Argentina the last episode was even broadcast at a stadium. It was the epic enhancement of someone’s living room, with the content spilling out to inspire what we could definitely call an event. Maybe the potential amplification of content and its surrounding experience should be something for all producers to consider. As Sync Screen’s Marc Goodchild put it at SWSX, ‘We need to go from making television experiences to making experiences that include television’. 

Sure, it’s convenient to binge watch that show that your geek friend has been obsessing about all year on a rainy weekend. But that only allows you to be part of that one specific conversation. If you follow Game of Thrones “live”, then you’re taking part of an entire cultural movement. It is almost impossible to go out with a group of people nowadays and not have someone mention the last crazy days of Don Draper or speculate on about Jon Snow’s shady origins. On the other hand, staying out of this commotion is a social statement, and not one for the weak. It takes a lot of will power not to give in to this kind of peer pressure. 

When content spills out into the cultural landscape watching a hit show two months later is not an option: either you get involved immediately, or you’re out of the conversation.

Therefore, the opportunity for producers and content makers is to build anticipation that creates big cultural moments and tweet spots for their content. Is there still time before winter comes?