South by Southwest is a three-headed monster revolving around film, music and interactive, but there’s another thread that winds through the festival: cable networks.
Cablers including IFC, Bravo, MTV and VH1 are leveraging the fest’s wired aud to push brands such as “Top Chef” that emphasize their interactive nature.
The fest’s increasing emphasis on comedy also provides a natural tie-in with cable comedy programmers such as IFC and Comedy Central, which hosts the “Workaholics” house party March 16 in Austin.
The nets see the festival as a prime place to reach both the fans and the creators of all that is indie, fresh and appealing to the 18-49 demographic.
“The festival has grown so much. It’s where people go when they launch stories about interactive things, to not only be heard by the press, but also by the fans. It’s incredibly social and viral,” said Bravo senior VP of marketing Ellen Stone.
People go to SXSW to find out what’s new, she said, which dovetails with what she calls the net’s early adopter audience.
Bravo’s activities in Austin are pegged to interactive late night series “Watch What Happens Live.” The show, hosted by Bravo exec Andy Cohen, will present a panel on transmedia with “Top Chef’s” Tom Colicchio, and is partnering to promote TaskRabbit, a Web service that helps people find helpers to do various chores.
Bravo will also use the interactive conference to release statistics on the growth of second-screen viewing.
With a show like “Top Chef,” “the (viewing) experience can’t be complete without going to another platform,” said Stone.
On Saturday, execs from Bravo, MTV and Food Network will look at the ability of social networking to drive TV ratings during the Interactive section panel @TVEngagement.
IFC, a sponsor of the festival, hosts the Crossroads house at the Vice Bar on Austin’s 6th Street, with five days of comedy and music including Delta Spirit and Built to Spill.
IFC senior VP of marketing Blake Callaway said the net is there because the festival “embodies all things in independent culture — film, music, comedy.”
Funny business is increasingly important to IFC, which sees SXSW as a place to find and showcase emerging names. Knowing what’s funny is a form of social currency for young guys, said Calloway.
While MTV and VH1 have been heavily involved in the music portion of the fest for years, VH1 is also prominent in the film area, thanks to the festival’s strong selection of music-focused docus.
Two VH1 docs are screening, “Marley” and Snoop Dogg-narrated “Uprising: Hip Hop and the L.A. Riots.”
MTV Music Group prexy Van Toffler said the net boosted its involvement at the music fest by launching the Woodie awards last year. It’s the right place to hold the music kudos that’s voted on by college auds, Toffler said, because so many bands are available to perform, including Imagine Dragons and Santigold. MTV also streams concerts from the Hive house music venue at the fest.
“It’s a great place to speak to artists, fans and the industry,” said Toffler.
And while Bravo applies the transmedia approach to getting viewers involved with TV shows, MTV will announce a plan to help artists connect directly with their fanbase.
Toffler will unveil the forthcoming pro-artist initiative and platform as a Featured SXSW Music Speaker on Thursday. “We’re going to create a home for music artists,” he said.