Using social media to build a stronger bond with TV and other entertainment audiences is already working, but Hollywood needs to do a lot more with it, Ryan Seacrest, said at the Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA. “I believe that the dialogue [with audiences] needs to live on, not just during the broadcast,” said the man with 12 million Twitter followers and a bewildering array of TV and radio shows, Internet investments and more. “We’re trying to do that. As an industry, we need to be doing more of that. One of the great things about [American] Idol when it first started was that it brought family together. When you watch Idol now, you can re-create that [in social media conversations]. I believe that conversation about your show is important. Whether that translates to a rating point, I don’t know.”
Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, who joined Seacrest onstage along with Kara Swisher of conference sponsor Re/Code, said studies by Nielsen, Fox and others back up Seacrest’s belief that a strong social media presence on Twitter and beyond can boost a TV show’s success. “A Nielsen study last year found three things that drive ratings: 1) last year’s ratings, 2) the amount spent on advertising and 3) Twitter,” Costolo said. “Twitter can extend and aggregate attention for shows. What we saw to be true anecdotally, they documented.” Seacrest said his team makes a point of using social media to support their new programs. “When we make a deal with a network, we genuinely do whatever we can to promote the show,” Seacrest said.
Seacrest, a frequent tech investor, and Costolo also talked about the rapid rise of a new generation of creative talent on platforms such as Vine, which Twitter owns and features 6-second videos. Less than 18 months after its debut, the platform has spawned an entire class of star creators, each with millions of followers, and some of whom are signing deals with Hollywood studios and talent agencies. “Ryan was super early to understand the use of Twitter to help his shows,” Costolo said. “What points to the future of media, the [multi-channel online networks] and Vine and YouTube stars, is that the ability to create content becomes easier and easier on these smart phones. You’re just going to see a rapid acceleration in the kinds of content that gets to audiences, the audiences they can create.”
Among Seacrest’s online investments (with Advance Publications) is DigiTour, which creates live tours featuring musicians who have made a splash on YouTube, Vine and other social-media platforms. “I looked at the company as a great opportunity, and I think it can scale well,” Seacrest said. “You grow those tours and scale them up. There’s a big opportunity to grow that business.” Vine, YouTube and other social media sites have become a place where entertainment companies can find new talent. “Going back to our day job, we don’t know where the next stars are going to come from for our shows,” Seacrest said. “This is a great place to look for talent.” But for all his online investment through an equity fund and otherwise, Seacrest said he isn’t ready to brag about any big scores. “It’s too early to say we’ve had a major mainstream success,” Seacrest said. “I’m fascinated by it; I’m curious about it.”