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Why is digital critical to sales success at MIPCOM?

A great idea can make or break a successful TV programme. For producers and distributors that stumble on a workable product, the rewards of selling it around the globe can be incredibly lucrative.

By Adam Smith, MD and owner, Rawnet

A great idea can make or break a successful TV programme. For producers and distributors that stumble on a workable product, the rewards of selling it around the globe can be incredibly lucrative, but achieving that cut through is never guaranteed, regardless of how good the programme actually is. For broadcasters, there’s also no way of ensuring the public is going to watch it, even if it has been carefully designed to tap into current trends and viewing habits. What is guaranteed is that if you can build a profound level of engagement with people through social media or other digital platforms you’ll stand a higher chance of positively influencing them and at the same time educate them on the credentials of your programme.

At MIPTV in April, it was abundantly clear that creativity across programme makers and distributors is rife. Yet, what was astonishing is how little focus is placed on innovative and creative digital approaches to selling these programmes to would-be buyers. Whilst exhibition stands and screening rooms provide a credible platform through which to showcase content, it’s becoming increasingly harder to create experiences which are immersive, memorable and engaging.

With MIPCOM, just under six months away, and attendance levels at MIPTV showing no signs of growth (the numbers were flat for the third consecutive year), broadcasters and distributors need to try something new to stand-out.

Offline and traditional approaches are simply no longer enough, and do little to sell the strengths and creativity on offer. They are also incredibly expensive. Advertising at MIP, from billboards to printed DM materials for instance, is far from cheap. Whilst it may give you a heightened sense of awareness, it does little else. It’s also easy to ignore amongst all the other noise surrounding the event.

Producers and distributors therefore need to look at ways they can use digital technology to present their content on their exhibition stand, from interactive screens, social media campaigns and immersive experiences. That’s not to say you need to look at splashing out on an augmented reality campaign, but you do need to look at how you can translate the values of your show to buyers in a more interactive form. Sure, you can hand them a brochure and show them the programme in a screening room – but chances are, everyone else is doing that. It’s not going to excite them. It’s not going to leave a lasting memory, even if you’ve shown them the next Homeland or The Voice. Judgements on both programmes (a side), both are hugely successful exports that once started off as an idea on a yellow legal pad.

With competition from markets such as Kidscreen growing in importance, buyers are segmenting and focusing solely on attending specific, more tailored, content showcases. That’s not necessarily because they are better at engaging buyers digitally, it’s just because they better understand the needs and requirements of their attendees. This change, whilst somewhat inevitable in the multi-channel landscape, shouldn’t be ignored. Broadcasters need to diversify more than ever. Their identity lives and breathes by the content they have, which is no doubt why UKTV channel Dave is set to rebrand as David in June as it welcomes a new spoof reality series with David Hasselhoff. So cutting through this appetite for content and tailoring your approach can pay dividends if pitched in the right way.

Changing your sales approach may sound daunting, but the first port of call is a need to break with convention. Having attended MIP numerous times over the years it’s clear to see very little has changed. Huge amounts of money are being spent each year, but everything feels very routine. Considering the vast momentum of digital release channels has achieved in a very short space of time, it’s incredibly surprising content producers aren’t harnessing digital channels to promote their ideas.

The other thing that continues to strike me is how most activity seems to be consolidated around the Palais. There’s little at the airport, there’s nothing innovative in the surrounding area, or the hotels where numerous key decision makers are staying. These areas are an untapped canvas, ripe for leveraging. I’d love to see distributors use virtual screens to target me on my visits, push content to my phone or just communicate on a deep and personal level.

Traditional marketing approaches simply can’t do that. They are also impossible to accurately measure. Digital changes that, it enables you to bridge the gap between on- and offline worlds and connect with people in a fun and direct way. These approaches by design are often far more cost effective and much easier to scale up and measure. Distributors therefore need to look at ways they can redeploy their investments. Having a good website, which supports your campaign should be the linchpin of this approach, but it’s really only a basic prerequisite in today’s market.

We are seeing time and time again how producers are raising the bar in terms of creativity, with all the great television shows out there these days. Netflix and Amazon Instant Video, along with other VoD/OTT providers have undeniably fuelled this creative stream, increasing completion to the extent where traditional TV and digital viewing mutually co-exist. Broadcasters therefore have to adjust and focus on a far more strategic approach when producing content. Digital has made the content creation process far more sophisticated, so it’s critical that the way programmes are sold and marketed matches this level of strategising creativity.

Experiences which create networks and communities naturally lead to a more credible and engaging experience and give you a competitive edge. If you’ve got a great show, dissect why it’s a great show and use that knowledge to power a more meaningful go-to-market approach.

The clock may be ticking to October, but the simplest of innovations can make a difference. I’d urge distributors and marketers to start planning and testing techniques which not only complement their programmes but the evolving changes in the market and attitudes of the buyer.