Facebook Friends ‘Dancing with the Stars’ for First Entertainment Pact (Exclusive)

Facebook API, 'Dancing with the Stars'

ABC to capitalize on new tools that will present demographic data on air

Facebook’s vast trove of user data is making its way to Hollywood — and it’s hitting the dance floor first.

The social media giant has lined up its first-ever entertainment partnership with ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” which will feature real-time social media conversations about contestants, buzz-generating couples and more from Facebook on air during each telecast. The partnership begins with tonight’s season 17 premiere.

Similar to how NBC’s “The Voice” leverages Twitter reactions during its broadcasts, “DWTS” will display Facebook conversations during each episode of the veteran dance competition, but with a deeper dive: reactions can be broken down by gender and age group, or hyper-targeted to certain geographic regions.

“DWTS” will be able to tell viewers during broadcasts, for example, if a contestant like Snooki is generating Facebook buzz with women in California.

“Being the first entertainment partner to leverage this new technology exhibits our commitment to producing the best live experience possible,” said Marla Provencio, exec veep and chief marketing officer of ABC Entertainment Group.  “We are always looking for ways to innovate and engage our loyal fan base, and feel ‘Dancing with the Stars’ in particular is the perfect fit to kick off this new initiative.”

What Facebook has done with this partnership is empower “DWTS” producers with two tools: Facebook’s public feed API, and keyword insights API. The public feed API captures conversations happening on the Facebook feeds of celebrities, brands and users whose profiles are not private.

The keyword insights API aggregates conversations happening across all Facebook profiles on a certain topic via status updates, comments and likes, stripping them of personal info so the data is anonymous. This API is able to then breakdown the volume of conversations into specific demographics — male, female, age ranges, locations, etc..

Earlier this month, Facebook began releasing the APIs to news orgs including NBC News and Buzzfeed (NBC News used Facebook data on-air last week), but “DWTS” marks the first time the tools are being leveraged for an entertainment property. Facebook plans to release the public feed API and keyword insights API to more TV producers in the coming weeks, and at no charge.

While “DWTS” is Facebook’s first dance partner in the entertainment space, data from the company has been integrated into TV telecasts of other genres in recent years, including NBC’s Olympics events, CNN newscasts devoted to the presidential election and Fox Sports’ college football telecasts. In these cases, however, Facebook had to manually glean data, an arduous process that has now been streamlined with the release of these API tools.

Facebook has remained a serious player in the social TV space, but Twitter has reigned over that landscape, with its trending topics and constant flow of real-time reactions being touted by seemingly every television network alongside ratings reports.

With these two API tools, however, Facebook brings a more in-depth approach to social TV by looking at not just what topics people are talking about online, but what kind of people are talking about a topic, as well. Being able to analyze specific demographic reactions provides additional value to networks and producers that Twitter doesn’t yet provide on a meaningful level, since Twitter accounts often aren’t utilized to create genuine profiles the way Facebook does (“Catfish” episodes aside).

“People come to Facebook to connect with their friends and family, and they use their real identity,” said Nick Grudin, director of partnerships at Facebook. “It creates a level of discourse that people say is of higher quality. That identity point is key to Facebook.”

Twitter tends to skew younger than Facebook in terms of its average user, and also draws more organic engagement from TV viewers — auds will “live tweet” a show on Twitter, but rarely “live update” their Facebooks with the same volume of commentary.

But Grudin isn’t concerned about this affecting the quality of the social TV data that producers can dig up with this pair of API tools. He referenced the MTV Video Music Awards as an example, a sizable telecast with a notably younger viewership.

“We saw 26.5 million Facebook interactions regarding the ‘VMAs’ — comments, shares and likes,” Grudin explained, noting that Facebook boasts over a billion users worldwide. “When we dug into that, we found that the reactions came from 9 million people, and the total viewing audience of the ‘VMAs’ was 10 million.”

“We’re seeing substantial engagement across the age spectrum,” Grudin added. “These APIs will expose that, including the topics discussed by different ages and what types of content other age groups are responding to.”

Beyond “DWTS,” these API tools could eventually affect how TV creatives produce content. Consider “fan favorite” seasons of long-running reality series, where producers would be able to analyze which former contestants drew the most buzz with Facebook’s huge user base, which could affect their casting choices. With such in-depth demographic info, the keyword insights API could also change how a network markets a show to certain audiences.

Should the “DWTS” data be compelling, the Alphabet will consider using the Facebook API tools with other programs on its lineup.

“The feedback that comes from social conversations can and should influence production decisions,” said Grudin. “We are excited to learn from the industry how this is going to be of use in that way. As a producer sees that a particular storyline or contestant is driving a higher degree of conversation, especially around a particular demographic or region, that information could be used to pivot or adapt storylines over time.”

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  1. Brad Johnson says:

    This is a great way to boost viewer engagement. Did they build the functionality in-house or is there a technology platform we could use for this?

    • Rachel Meyerson says:

      Hi Brad,

      This experience was possible with Mass Relevance’s SaaS platform! Mass Relevance helps brands, media, and agencies build social experiences. Our SaaS platform was leveraged by DWTS and ABC to create real-time viewer engagement by aggregating, filtering, and re-displaying social content from Facebook and Twitter on to our TV screen. If you’d like more information on Mass Relevance, please visit http://www.massrelevance.com. We’d love to hear from you!


    I LOVE DANCING WITH THE STARS….IS IT POSSIBLE TO HAVE ON A REGULAR PERSON, I WOULD LOVE TO DANCE ON DANCING WITH THE STARS…..CONTACT ME PLEASE… Ferrell_marilyn @yahoo.com or facebook….looking forward to hearing from you.

  3. Francesca says:

    I just started watching and leah already made me have a good laugh with her joking around. I love her. Just finished watching jack and I couldn’t believe he is all grown up. Touched my heart to see Sharon cry, just thinking wow look at him all adult like and dancing. Snooki did awesome.

  4. Tammy says:

    Awesome new season!!! Love all the stars it will be hard to let any of them go. I have three favorites : )

  5. Jeanette Thoss says:

    What a great start to the season!

  6. Daisy Moran says:

    Val your my favorite I love you …you have a great partner… Everyone else did awesome too…another great season💜

  7. Diane says:

    Everyone was great. WTG Bill.

  8. All the dances were awesome tonight, can’t wait till the next show. Love it!! God bless Valerie you were great.

  9. Yep loving the nerd Bill, he gets all my votes.

  10. dietra says:

    Nicole looks great very grown up..

  11. dietra says:

    Finally a show with no bullys

  12. mallory martino says:

    I think even though bill is not a dancer and an older person I think he is going to do great! I’m going to vote for him! Nerd power!!! Lol

  13. SherryBaby says:

    I think the judges were too “judgemental” on The Science Guy”. Please stick to constructive comments! At least Carry Ann showed some compassion for a non-dancer!

  14. wow what an opening night!! such good scores and good dancers already!!

  15. pookey says:

    LOVE Toms comment “Spooning in the Smoke”

  16. Donna Mrnak says:

    Unbelievable scores for the first show of the season!!

  17. Carolishca Forster says:

    So glad that DWTS is back again. I haven’t missed a show since Day 1 to now. I have great admiration and respect for the professional dancers, the judges, the crew, and of course the stars. 

  18. Carolishca Forster says:

    So glad that DWTS is back again. I haven’t missed a show since Day 1 to now. I have great admiration and respect for the professional dancers, the judges, the crew, and of course the stars.I believe Derek is THE BEST dancer/choreographer–hands down, BUT since Val came on the show he’s up there close to Derek.

  19. dietra says:

    Enjoying the show a lot

  20. Dacia says:

    Loving the show…………great dancing. I know this is going to be a smashing season!

  21. Inetta says:

    I love DWS! This show impacts the lives in the best way of everyone that dance on the show! The show is so heart warming and genuine!!

  22. Amber and Derek looks good tell me full figure womens cant move first night score 27 keep up the work.i love DWTS glad its back on season17 is going to be the best season ever .

  23. Amy Cahoon says:

    I think this is the best cast yet. I have been watching the show since the beginning and LOVE IT!! I have always loved dancing and ballroom dancing has always been my favorite. I learned how to waltz on my daddy’s feet when I was 7 yrs old. I am now 52 and still love to dance even though I don’t dance very much any more.

  24. Jennifer says:

    Love the cast this season. They are all doing a fantastic job!!!

  25. Linda Brewer says:

    Wow! What a great start to the season! I don’t ever remember seeing such great dances or high scores on night one! This will be such an amazing season!

  26. Dee Ferreira says:

    SO HAPPY, season 17 has started!!!! Good Luck to all the Dancers!

  27. Sue Bride says:

    I just love Dancing with the Stars. My hubby sat down with our son to do homework with him cause he said mommy is watching her show. So glad that the show is now only on Mondays as on Tuesdays we have bowling and I would have to stay up late to watch the show.

  28. Sandra stapish--68 yrs young. says:

    I am do happy to see the new dancers showing everyone can overcome! Let’s try and keep the costumes not so “bate” this season. We need to think what kind of examples we are passing on to the younger generation.

  29. Steph Bair says:


  30. Mary says:

    This going to be quite the season!

  31. Debbie says:

    What an awesome start to the first night. Cannot wait for the rest

  32. Marge C says:

    Too soon to know who the winners will be? Cheryl and Jack were GREAT!!

  33. Cara kelley says:

    Team snooki all the way

  34. Really liking Corbin & Karina!

  35. Joyce says:

    Thinking Karina likes looking at the camera

  36. Lisa says:

    Great start

  37. Bobbi Moy says:

    Peta and Brant…you rocked it!

  38. lisa from hawaii says:

    Cant wait for tonights show.

  39. Nancy Jean says:

    Waiting 7 more minutes!

  40. rocio says:

    Love the show ♥

  41. phyllis says:

    Loving it…..smile

  42. Amber Franklin says:

    Love it

  43. Leanne says:

    Sounds like a plan, but I wonder how many bugs will have to be overcome to get it to work properly?

  44. I love DWTS, Derek is my favorite dancer! No matter who he dances with I’m voting for him!!!!


  46. Martha S. says:

    So if it’s going to be live, only those states in the east will be able to participate. Guess we won’t be involved. Will watch tonight and see how it goes and then decide whether we will continue to watch or not. Really only interested in the dancing and wish we could vote. Don’t like seeing tweets,etc. on the screen.

  47. Daron Beasley says:

    How are you going to compensate for the 3-hour time difference between east and west coast viewers?

  48. Fran says:

    Can’t wait. My favorite show on TV.

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