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How Tumblr Animated ABC’s ‘Billboard Music Awards’ in Real Time

Blogging site, to be acquired by Yahoo, engineered first live TV integration with kudos telecast Sunday

On the eve of Yahoo’s announcement to acquire the blogging site, Tumblr staged its first live TV integration with ABC’s “Billboard Music Awards” Sunday night — posting animated GIFs to the site just minutes after events unfolded on (and off) the Vegas stage.

Tumblr worked with ABC, Billboard, Don Mischer Productions and social media agency Digital Media Management on the live-blogging execution, said Tumblr entertainment evangelist David Hayes. The pact came together late last week, and Billboard flew three of Tumblr’s top animated GIF artists to Las Vegas to work out of a social media “war room” outside the venue.

“This is an initiative that I feel like every network has wanted to do, but nobody figured out how to do it live until now,” Hayes said.

Over the course of the evening, Billboard posted 40 animated GIFs to its Tumblr during the red carpet and show, selected from about 60 the three GIF artists produced live. ABC’s kudocast featured two on-air promotions pointing viewers to the Tumblr blog.

“It was a challenge to do this live,” Hayes said, noting that the animated GIFs were cut and available for ABC to incorporate into the broadcast in less than 10 minutes.

Tumblr did not have estimates on how much website traffic the awards show generated, and it’s not clear what effect the live blog had on ratings. In any event, ABC easily won Sunday night with “Billboard Music Awards” (3.6/10 in the 18-49 demo and 9.5 million viewers overall), according to Nielsen data.

Earlier this month, Tumblr teamed up with Oxygen to present animated GIFs on-screen during an episode of “Best Ink” competish show. But those were prepared ahead of time: “The gold nugget was live, with real-time marketing and content flowing back to the television,” Hayes said.

Billboard tweeted every GIF posted to the Tumblr. Highlights included R&B artist Miguel attempting to stage-dive into the crowd — and landing on a fan. Viewers following along on Twitter freaked out, but Digital Media Management together with Billboard worked up a GIF showing Miguel and the fan backstage — all smiles.

“GIF artists are the modern-day deejays,” Hayes said. “They’re cutting images in real time.” The team on Billboard’s live GIF crew were from Mr. GIF and Deckhouse Digital.

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