On the drive in westbound along The Esplanade, there were blocks and blocks of black SUV’s and I knew there was loads of talent flown in for this one. Then I remembered when I first started attending upfronts some 25 years ago, Baton Broadcasting would fly in the talent too – they’d walk on stage, wave and walk off. In my youth I thought what a waste of money, and of course now I realize they are here doing press all over the place, not just saying Hi to us at the upfront.
This was the peculiar thing about it. Despite dramatic change in corporate ownership and talent, the show seemed virtually the same as it is every year, every decade really. Less on the CTV logo with the letters draped in red blue and green flying scarves, and tons with the now-familiar Bell font in Bell blue.
It’s curious that the CTV Upfront is widely regarded as THE best afterparty, but first the most lacklustre presentation. The Sony Centre seems the ideal venue, and the fact that the entire event management is outsourced shows in the flawless execution and excellent food and music. Even the program montages – which have been riveting and captivating at both Rogers and Shaw this week, came off slower somehow. Phil King, President of CTV Sports and Programming and probably the most un-Bell-like senior exec at the company with his hippie style and conversational attitude, brought the only freshness to an otherwise staid presentation. In describing Saving Hope airing this summer, he said a cliffhanger episode would air right before the Olympic break and then they’d use the Olympics to “promote the hell out of it.”
Bell did offer up some very cool social media tools and stats – if they would please just stop saying they get 14 million unique visitors to their website every month. They do. But the vast majority of these people never get beyond their Sympatico.ca email page. Kevin Crull, president up until last year of only the provider-side has taken to the television part of the business like he’s been there for years. Crull referenced Companion Viewing frequently, and I think they’re right on the money with this one. Companion Viewing allows live chat while the program is airing. Even a twitter hashtag bug in the corner throughout the program has shown to be a huge success. Not just deeper engagement, but boosting television views by as much as 18%, and perhaps most importantly, provides a real-time reason to tune to first airings.
The Branding of some of the specialties, like MuchMusic using Facebook is also driving loyalty, increased viewing and social media action. Viewer rewards are the latest way to incent people to sign up and share. Shaw Media announced the same idea yesterday, in the form of a partnership with GetGlue.
Either way, social media may prove to be television’s savioiur.
And of course huge #’s will come across all platforms this summer when CTV carries the 2012 Summer Olympics from London. Lisa Laflamme missed the proceedings today having wooshed off to London for a big ‘exclusive’ interview which will air this Sunday night. Might it be the Queen herself?
For more info on the 12/13 season visit www.bellmediapr.ca