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April 22, 2013
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ARTE looking for younger audience via social TV

While ARTE, the public service European culture channel, provides a channel app for tablets and smartphones that is home to a programme guide and seven day catch-up TV service, the broadcaster’s strategy is firmly focused on websites rather than downloadable apps when it comes to programme-specific interactivity and social TV. From experience it has found that it is difficult persuading viewers to download apps, while websites have proved to be an efficient and effective way to build communities around shows.

The value of the downloadable app is understood; the channel is enhancing its Arte channel app in the autumn by integrating more social TV and second screen features, and it occasionally produces a programme specific second screen app. But Gilles Freissinier, Director of Web Department on Social TV at ARTE, emphasizes that most of the programme-specific work is, and will remain, online, where people can engage with shows through tablet and mobile browsers as well as PCs.

“We are doing website applications because we do not want to go through app stores and it is easier for us to develop things as web apps,” he explains. “It is not easy to get people to download an app and then use it if you do not have anything to do [in the app] every day or it is not dynamic. And if you are talking about one-off programmes it is much easier to design websites.”

Last week we reported how CBC in Canada has also found it difficult to get viewers to download show-specific second screen apps, meaning that the public broadcaster has yet to be convinced they are the best medium for interactive TV.  You can read that story here. Taken together these comments suggest that the market for second screen apps could take longer to develop than first hoped.

The value of second screen interactivity is not in question, just the best way to deliver it. For ARTE, there is a clear ambition to enrich programming through online activities and social TV is at the heart of this as the broadcaster looks to attract a younger audience.

“Yes, we can make more young people aware of ARTE through social media and help make our viewing population younger,” Freissinier declares. “We are trying to focus [the web/social media activities] on TV programmes that could be popular with a young audience. We are not using social media and the web for every kind of programme.”

One example of where ARTE is building an online community of interest around a show, and also where it has shunned apps in favour of browser-based delivery, is ‘Real Humans’, a Swedish drama where humans make use of human looking robots (hubots) in every day life, and which looks at the relationship between the two. Freissinier’s team are using Twitter and a branded Facebook page (UK version here, including promo) to generate interest ahead of and after each episode, including posting promo films and photo sharing. A post-show ‘debrief’ on Facebook encourages viewers to discuss what happened, how characters are developing and what they think will happen in the next episode.

A key part of the strategy is to get people using the official Twitter hashtag rather than alternative hashtags and the team Tweet photos and quotes, among other things, while the show is on-air. The social media campaign is deliberately simple but very powerful, Freissinier says.

The Hubot Market interactive sales site, where ARTE lets viewers choose and then share their own human robot

In the show there is a hubot market where you can buy hubots and ARTE has created an interactive version of this where you can choose the type of hubot you want and then share the result via social networks. But even this does not justify a downloadable show app. “You do not use Hubot Market daily – you may come once or twice so it would not be very efficient for us to build an app if people download and use it just once,” Freissinier declares.

Real Humans is generating one of ARTE’s best audiences on TV and one of its best followings on social media but it is hard to try to justify investments in social TV by pointing to television audiences. Freissinier admits that TV is still the primary driver for interest, creating the interest that delivers the web interactivity, rather than the other way around, although the two increasingly go hand-in-hand.

Today ARTE builds social TV and other interactivity into its show plans early in the development process and Freissinier’s team works with producers to think about the overall show brand and not just the TV programme. Some producers are more proactive than others. “There are producers who understand that in order to make their programme very well known they must also be very efficient on the web, Facebook and Twitter,” he observes.

When it comes to building social TV communities, ARTE invests most of its effort in shows with 10 or more episodes, which can mean daily and weekly magazine programmes or a 12 part drama series. “We want to give the magazine shows a life on the Internet as well as on TV,” he says. It is hard creating a community of interest around a one-off programme, so that is a low priority. Documentaries and shows that can generate strong opinions, like a factual programme about nuclear power, for example, are ripe for social TV, adds Freissinier.

ARTE is trying to introduce more show-related content into its Arte App, the current tablet/smartphone app where you find the programme guide and catch-up TV. The challenge is to ensure this app does not become too complex, however, so the websites and social media integration with those remain the primary strategy for the broadcaster when it comes to programme enrichment.

Gilles Freissinier will be speaking at this year’s Connected TV Summit and explaining ‘What does Social TV add to the TV experience’ during a breakout session dedicated to ‘The user experience adventure’. He will be addressing: Why do TV channels use social TV?; How TV channels such as CANAL+ and ARTE are harnessing Social TV today (he previously worked at CANAL+);  The Best screens, the best moments for social connections;  How social engagement impacts what people watch; Using social strategy to build loyalty: the strategy; and  Social TV as an R&D topic. You can download the full conference programme here.