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BEING THERE IS
EVERYTHING

Television has always provided big emotions that touch and inspire millions. In recent months, ProSiebenSat.1 has proved how much potential it has for the future: A hit format like “The Voice of Germany” allows the intelligent online platform CONNECT to be more interactive than ever before — and shows how social TV and the MUSIC Business complement each other perfectly. Viewers become contributors!

 
 

Being there is everything

It may be that the live show does not start until 8:15 pm on Thursday with the fanfare that heralds a new episode of Germany’s extraordinary talent show: “This is the Voice — of Ger-Ma-Ny!” But anyone who opens their laptop at 8:02 pm and visits the ProSieben Connect website will notice straight away that THE VOICE OF GERMANY has already started!

Far more than 50,000 fans are already “checked in”, as they call it here, on the social TV platform, and this number is growing every minute. “Hopefully Eva will sing one of her own songs again,” Karen writes about her favorite contestant. Timo answers promptly: “I want to get goooosebuuumps again.” Backstage videos, background info, ways to vote, competitions: There’s a lot going on on the Connect platform, which is a mobile app as well as a website. The central element is a live stream. But most users prefer to watch on a big conventional TV screen while they submit their comments live to the Connect community. Social TV feels like this: “Now you can experience the community feeling of an exciting evening of TV not just with a few friends, but with tens of thousands of like-minded people,” says Johannes Bayerl (30), online editor at ProSiebenSat.1 Digital. His colleague Mara Pilz (29) adds: “That is exactly why we developed Connect.”

It’s the logical continuation of a principle that has guided ProSiebenSat.1 for a long time: Extending successful shows into the digital world in order to offer viewers round-theclock entertainment. A show like “The Voice of Germany” supplies fans with exciting content 24 hours a day seven days a week: At www.voice-of-germany.de, on the Facebook and Twitter accounts of the participants and now also on Connect. Johannes Bayerl gives an example: “If viewers’ favorite Eva Croissant writes ‘bad cold :-(’ on her Facebook page, worried fans want to know what is up. So we go to Eva and follow her in rehearsals. We then have the good news, ‘Eva will sing’, immediately as a video on the web and on Connect.” This increases excitement and anticipation for the TV show. “The subject can also be included if we show a clip of the hospital visit or read out the nice messages from well-wishers,” explains Mara Pilz. And after the show, Eva goes online to say thank you for the support, which creates new opportunities to connect …

Shortly before the big performance at the Olympic Hall in Munich: Katharina Frömsdorf (centre), Managing Director of Starwatch Entertainment, backstage with the artists from “The Voice of Germany”.

Greater audience loyalty through participation: That is what ProSiebenSat.1’s social TV activities are about. “Strategically, a platform like Connect was the next logical step,” says Matthias Heidenfelder, Senior Concept Developer at ProSiebenSat.1 Digital. “Connect offers brand new ways to interact. Particularly live, while the show is on air.” Therefore, Heidenfelder is not afraid of the “second screen” trend — on the contrary. The television screen alone is often not enough for younger viewers any more — they use their iPad or smartphone at the same time. “As long as it all has to do with our show, there could be nothing better for us,” Heidenfelder is sure. Connect functions as a perfect companion to the show, with a comment function, backstage material, and opportunities to guess, win and vote. “If two contestants on ‘The Voice of Germany’ go up against each other,” says Johannes Bayerl, “Connect users can join in and vote on who impressed them the most. And we show the results live on the TV broadcast!”

Ensuring entertainment around the clock: Online editors Maria Pilz and Johannes Bayerl.

By the same token, the program makers also benefit from this direct contact, as Connect allows them to receive feedback from their audience faster than ever before. What works? What do people not like? The user comments give valuable information no matter what. Being there is everything.

It all comes together: First online, then at the concert

It seems as if the old Olympic motto is becoming newly relevant for social TV. All the more when you see how the show goes on after the grand final of the second season of “The Voice of Germany”. The fan community, which met virtually on Connect or the website, came together a few weeks later in Germany’s concert venues. On one January evening, Katharina Frömsdorf (35), who is responsible for ProSiebenSat.1’s music and live entertainment commitments as Managing Director of Starwatch Entertainment, is standing in the middle of the Olympic Hall in Munich, between thousands of excited fans in front of a spectacular stage on which the semi-finalists from “The Voice of Germany” are putting on their final show after eight previous performances in all of Germany’s major cities. Katharina Frömsdorf is right to be proud. “It was a risk,” she says in the break between two songs. “We couldn’t be completely sure if it would really work. No one in the country had tried this in this form before — sending eight newly discovered artists to the biggest venues.” At this moment, the live band starts playing — and Brigitte Lorenz (42), Team Nena, who just a few months ago was making the beds in a hospital in the Ruhr, is in front rocking out. A storm of excitement sweeps through the crowd. Frömsdorf laughs, then shouts to be understood: “It’s great when an idea works so well!”

Inspiring: That is ProSieben Connect. The social TV platform was developed by Matthias Heidenfelder, Senior Concept Developer at ProSiebenSat.1 Digital, and his team.

But that is not a completely new experience for Katharina Frömsdorf and her team. Starwatch Entertainment has often shown how well TV, music and live show business can be combined. The power of television makes bands, singers and their songs famous — the stars that Starwatch looks after include former “The Voice of Germany” winners Ivy Quainoo and Nick Howard as well as the hip- hop legends “Die Fantastischen Vier”, the German pop titan Heino, rock legend Udo Lindenberg and the international rock star Lenny Kravitz. And the power of music touches millions in front of their televisions … of which “The Voice of Germany” tour with a total attendance of 70,000 is no bad example. “As a subsidiary of ProSiebenSat.1, we have unique opportunities as a label and concert organizer,” says Katharina Frömsdorf once the very last encore has faded away.

On the way home through the dark Munich Olympiapark, many “The Voice of Germany” fans are already hunched over the glowing displays of their smartphones to share their special experience with the world. One girl beams at her friend: “I can hardly wait till the third season of ‘The Voice of Germany’ starts!”

 
 
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Interview

PROF. DR. BEATE SCHNEIDER (65) TEACHES COMMUNICATION SCIENCE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF MUSIC, DRAMA AND MEDIA HANOVER. SHE RESEARCHES THE FUTURE OF MEDIA USE IN NUMEROUS STUDIES. SHE CALLS “SOCIAL TV” “THE NEW APPETITE FOR TELEVISION!”

What is meant by social TV?

PROF. DR. SCHNEIDER: The connection of the television medium with social networks on the internet — Facebook or Twitter, for example. We narrow down the term and refer only to communication during a TV broadcast rather than before or afterward. This sametime communication is becoming ever more important.

Is “normal television” no longer enough?

PROF. DR. SCHNEIDER: It seems so. A few years ago everybody thought that TV use would decline because the younger generation found not only print media unattractive, but also television. But on the contrary, TV use is going up. Not least because television provides an ideal reason to communicate on social networks. Young people especially have always liked to talk about shared experiences, including television shows that everybody has seen. Social TV now makes it possible to celebrate, to cheer on, to gripe, and to get excited and enthusiastic … live, during the show. And if you want, you can do it together with a nearly unlimited circle of like-minded people. You could also say that the age of passive absorption in front of the television screen is over.

What formats are particularly popular among online communities?

PROF. DR. SCHNEIDER: Shows that are current and offer a strong emotional appeal, so the community can share the excitement and join in. No wonder that “The Voice of Germany”, “Germany’s next Topmodel — by Heidi Klum” and “Schlag den Raab” have an awful lot going on in the networks, as we discovered with our studies. The same is true for the “Tatort” crime series, but as a cult show, we can say that is a special case. And ARD barely does anything to reach out to the community purposefully. ProSiebenSat.1 is much farther ahead in this regard.

What would you say to a TV provider that wants to benefit from social TV?

PROF. DR. SCHNEIDER: Take your opportunities! Building up expertise is a must, or you will embarrass yourself in the community. Remember that network communication has to offer an additional experience. Apps like ProSieben Connect can be useful for that. It is all worth it, because social TV is good not only for brand management and audience retention, but also as a fascinating tool for measuring success. Whether praise or criticism, honest feedback comes in straight away. As a broadcaster, you obviously have to trust that.

 
 
 
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