Is America Ready For Livestream-to-TV Possibilities?


By Adam R Jacobson

Andy Warhol may be absolutely correct when he said in 1968 that everyone will be world-famous for exactly 15 minutes.

Thank Viacom Labs for making the innovative artist a soothsayer.

Viacom’s “incubator for the future of fan experience and engagement” has pioneered a breakthrough television format that pulls in live internet video streams from fans as a curated real-time feed running on-air during a regularly scheduled television show.

The technology is currently in beta test mode, with Viacom’s MTV Australia partner in what is still an experiment. The pay-TV channel is set to be the first to produce and launch an original series based on the test.

livestreamThe as-yet untitled show will air on Australia’s 24-hour linear music channel, MTV Music, and is set to premiere in 2017.

The importance of the word “linear” in the previous sentence is paramount to ways in which “old media” seeks to tap into “new media” to keep younger audiences engaged while ensuring that ad dollars don’t only go to the online platforms MTV viewers are engaged in.

Here’s how the experiment worked: In June 2016, Viacom production teams in the U.S. and Europe joined their brethren in Australia in inviting music fans to livestream themselves dancing to music videos that aired on MTV Music Australia during the test.

The experiment, conducted in June 2016, attracted an audience more than double MTV Music Australia’s average.

The late Dick Clark would be proud, as Viacom successfully reinvented “American Bandstand” for the digital generation.

“Viacom Labs’ mission is to constantly evolve how fans connect to the content they love and give them opportunities to make it their own,” said Susan Claxton, co-head of Viacom Labs. “The global livestream-to-TV experiment demonstrates what’s possible when we work together to leverage the dynamics of the social web and the massive scale and context of linear television.”

The livestreams, which can be pulled from most livestreaming platforms once fans include a designated hashtag, were selected in real time by a show producer in a control room who viewed them on several screens, all at once.

“By partnering with Viacom Labs, we are developing a truly innovative and immersive fan experience never seen on television,” said Simon Bates, VP and Head of MTV Asia Pacific. “Marrying the technology of livestreaming with a linear broadcast catapults fan engagement into the 21st century, and we’re excited to be the first market to bring the concept to life.”

The livestream test and resulting Australian series comes as Viacom Labs hires Kiel Berry as Co-Head/SVP, sharing that role with Claxton. Prior to joining Viacom, Berry ran Linkin Park’s Machine Shop Ventures, a Venture Capital firm with stakes in ride-sharing service Lyft, among other nascent companies. Berry has also worked at Creative Artists Agency, in its Entertainment Marketing and International Business Development group.