Lauren Zalaznick: Second Screen Activity Means

NATPE: Twitter execs talk about biz efforts to harness social media heat at confab's opening session

In trying to get a handle on what second screen activity means to the traditional TV biz, producers first need to understand that “our audiences have audiences of their own.”

That was the message from Lauren Zalaznick, former NBCUniversal cable and digital exec, at the opening session Monday of the NATPE confab in Miami Beach.

The high volume of viewers who now watch TV while also engaging with a smartphone, tablet or laptop has led to “an overwhelming transformation of viewer behavior in a very short time,” she said. She cited surveys indicated that almost 80% of viewers have a second screen nearby as they watch TV, and two-thirds of those are directly engaging with something having to do with TV.

Zalaznick moderated a panel with three top Twitter execs: TV chief Fred Graver, Mike Park, senior manager of Twitter Amplify; and Jean-Philippe Maheu, managing director of global brand and agency strategy.

The Twitter execs said the company has been doing extensive research on the new “social soundtrack” that emerges around TV, on Twitter and other platforms.

“TV is an amazing screen for storytelling and creating cultural moments. While people are watching TV they want to share their feeling, their observations, their ‘oh my god’ moments with their networks,” Maheu said. “We look at Twitter as a multiplier force to TV from a content-enjoyment (perspective).”

The execs emphasized that the traditional TV biz needs to learn how to use Twitter as a conversational tool with fans, not just a one-way promo blast. Graver noted that his team has held “boot camp” sessions with many showrunners and writers rooms in an effort to help producers and networks harness the heat around all the second screen activity. He cited the production teams behind CBS’ “The Good Wife” and NBC’s “Law & Order: SVU” has having embraced the new medium.

One of the biggest things content creators have to grasp is the need to engage with fans directly.

“Showrunners need to learn how to have a conversation with viewers,” Graver said. “The retweet is the new autograph,” Graver said.

Graver noted that networks opened their doors to Twitter’s pitch in a big way after last year’s upfront. He’s also seen a shift in nets asking Twitter’s team to work directly with writers and producers rather than their own marketing execs.

Zalaznick pressed Graver on the prospect of Twitter evolving into a TV-like content platform itself — citing experiments by a handful of nascent ventures. But at least for now, Twitter’s focus is on innovating on second-screen and navigational services.

“I don’t think anybody is going to be watching TV on Twitter,” Graver said. “Twitter will become this guru that helps you find what you want to watch when you want to watch it.”

However, Park was quick to note that short-form video a la Vine and other applications should be on Hollywood’s radar.

“Video is the incremental revenue opportunity for our TV partners on Twitter,” he said.

Among other tidbits from the session:

** African-Americans and Hispanics “wildly over-index” in using Twitter, particularly among younger demos.

** Twitter’s research has shown that viewers who are engaged in tweeting while watching TV have a higher recall of advertising messages in the show than non-Twitter viewers.

** Graver told the crowd to watch out for a big Twitter stunt coming around the Super Bowl from Judd Apatow, who has a strong presence on Twitter, and a number of his comedy cohorts to raise money for AIDS research in Africa by tubthumping for downloads of a new U2 tune. Bank of America has pledged to donate $1 for every download.

“Judd Apatow and his friends are going to do everything they can to bankrupt Bank of America,” Graver said.

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