Last week I examined some of the typical challenges for using the Internet to market your feature film. This week I turn to the world of television series and some of its somewhat unique challenges and possible solutions.
The Television Series
Definition: While the first episode of a new television series may share some of the same challenges as a feature film (just replace “opening weekend” with “initial broadcast date” and “distributor” with “broadcaster”), the issues below are more specific to an ongoing TV series, especially one renewed for subsequent seasons.
- More gatekeepers. Like the feature film distributor, the broadcaster will expect a substantial say and there will be struggles over who owns and drives the online marketing campaign for your television series. But advertisers may also have a voice, affecting the direction of creative elements. Today advertising is more integrated into TV and its web components through product placement, sponsorships and online ads. These strategies may require the accommodation of various advertiser concerns and goals into the show, its website and its online marketing campaign.
- Downtime. A successful TV series will have long periods new content is off the air (in between seasons). How do you and your broadcaster(s) keep interest and anticipation alive?
- More web integration. Broadcasters have been savvy about the potential of the Internet for some time. Most television shows have a broadcaster website, some better than others. With this increased web integration comes more challenges to storytelling, fan engagement and measuring success as there are more pieces to track and control effectively.
- Long term marketing arc. You, of course, want your TV show to be a huge success, renewing season after season. This means a long arc for any online marketing strategy. It also means even if you get a feature film sized marketing budget, the money must last longer and reach farther.
- Beyond the series finale. All good things must come to an end eventually, and this will be true of your hit TV series. You have, of course, done everything right and built a healthy online fan community around your show. Do you abandon it? Leverage it to something new? How? What is your responsibility to your most loyal audience members?
- See your broadcasters and advertisers as a blessing. In a time when traditional screen media producers are struggling to find a way to make money, advertisers are a gift and a way to continue to make your TV series and grow it online. Web audiences also tend to be increasingly open and accepting of product placement and other advertising. They are savvy enough to understand that good content requires money, and that that usually means advertising. The right broadcasters and advertisers will be just as excited as you about the possibilities and have a long history of working together. Use this experience to create a new kind of financially viable partnership.
- Leverage your online power. Online is the perfect place to sustain and grow your audience in the downtime between seasons. It is an immediate and responsive space that can allow you to develop real relationships with the people who love and watch your show but requires forethought, creativity and real effort to use it effectively. Character blogs and twitter feeds, interactive games, and online graphic novels are just some of the ways other television shows have played with their audience online.
- Plan but stay extremely flexible. Big picture, long term thinking is required when planning out an online marketing strategy over the full life of a successful television show. However, it is also important you do not lock yourself into this plan no matter what. Things evolve quickly on the Internet and sometimes in completely unexpected ways. A long term vision must be balanced with an openness that will allow you to take advantage of the opportunities and changes that will happen online over the life of your project.
- Be revenue creative. As noted above, the devoted online audience knows it takes money to make their favourite show and so advertising is okay. They may even be willing to shell out their own cash to pay for merchandise, exclusive content or other spinoff products that extend and enhance their experience of a television series. The tricky part is who owns that revenue and this is an issue that broadcasters and producers are just starting to negotiate and work out.
- Free range audience. In this brave new media world, the audience owns their favourite stories like never before. In television this can be the key for sustaining your fans during the downtime and beyond the end of the series without exhausting your personal resources. Let them sustain themselves. Give them the freedom to take the story in new directions, to tweet on behalf of favourite characters, to generate fan fiction in the world of your TV series, or even to be the curator of all this content online. While letting go of traditional control can be scary, once the series is over and the broadcaster is out this can be a simple solution for the audience that is still there. And one that also sets the creators free to move onto new projects.
Or Revisit Last Week: Film vs. TV vs. Web Video: Different Online Marketing Challenges – Part 1
Submit suggestions, questions or tips of your own via email to annelise(at)veria.ca or Twitter @veriatweet