As TV gets back into gear for the fall season, there’s a fresh opportunity for digital initiatives. We’ve been chatting with our network and video platform contacts about what’s in store for viewers. Today, we’ll highlight Fox’s plans. If you had to use one word to […]

As TV gets back into gear for the fall season, there’s a fresh opportunity for digital initiatives. We’ve been chatting with our network and video platform contacts about what’s in store for viewers. Today, we’ll highlight Fox’s plans.

If you had to use one word to sum up Fox’s digital plans for the fall TV season, it would be “glee.” The network is ecstatic about the early buzz for its show of the same name, and it’s focusing its online efforts on milking the hype.

With only three episodes to its name, Glee gets a contest powered by Thingfo to determine the show’s biggest fan across multiple social networks, a karaoke competition on MySpace, Twitter accounts for its characters, and a “tweet-peat” Twitter conversation between cast and fans overlaid on a rerun of the premiere episode.

Glee represents a blank slate for the network, which took the unusual approach of first airing the pilot in May, four months before the season kicked off. “We don’t always get to do what we would want to do because you have to have a lot of stars aligned — network, studio, the guilds have to OK everything,” said Hardie Tankersley, VP Online Content & Strategy at Fox Broadcasting Co., in a recent phone interview. That’s why you might not see a ton of Family Guy web extras, though the show is tremendously popular online. “Newer shows are definitely easier,” said Tankersley.

Fox knew the musical dark comedy was a bit of an oddball. “The show is hard to explain, so we were trying to figure how to market it,” said Tankersley. “When people did see it, they sort of went nuts.” After the early TV premiere, Fox kept the show available online over the summer as a free download on iTunes, and via streaming on Fox.com and Hulu.

Now that the season is finally ramping up, Fox is partnering with Hitviews to promote Glee through its roster of YouTube stars. So, for instance, Michael Buckley of What the Buck is applying his trademark mile-a-minute enthusiasm to the show (see embed above) — which he says he fell in love with independently — using officially sanctioned clips and encouraging his own fans to declare themselves “GLEEks.”

Tankersley said the “tweet-peats,” which Fox also used for sophomore show Fringe (and annoyed some fans by covering up on-screen action with tweets) attracted about 10,000 tweets per broadcast. He said it’s likely Fox will reuse the concept next year for reruns aired in the run-up to the fall season, when viewership traditionally drops.

Fox is also having some writers tweet in character for Glee — as it’s also doing for Homer Simpson, and NBC is doing for 30 Rock characters. And guess what — the tweets are pretty funny (see the example to the left)! Here are Twitter accounts for Glee and the characters Rachel, Sue, Quinn and Kurt.

Tankersley said Fox would hypothetically monetize the Twitter feeds by showing sponsor ads on their pages — like what Time is doing with Siemens. In most other cases, web efforts will be meant to act as marketing for the shows, and won’t likely be monetized themselves.

Fox already uses the Move Networks video player to stream in HD with adaptive bitrates, so Tankersley said not to expect much in the way of changes there (as compared to other networks, like CBS, which are upgrading for the fall). He also said not to expect any web originals or dedicated apps for Fox shows. Hankersley has told us in the past that he doesn’t see a business in web series.”My skepticism remains intact,” he said. “We have yet to see anybody’s web original become a hit, and we’re in the hit business.” As for apps, it’s pretty much the same thing: “I haven’t figured out how to do an app that’s really interesting.”

Where Tankersley does want to ramp up innovation is on advertising formats for streamed TV. Fox will be experimenting with “pause ads” and clickable interstitials to figure out what units work best.

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  1. I think the Fox team’s social marketing efforts (the Biggest Gleek game, MySpace karaoke contest, live tweet-peats) share a common thread which I feel is key to their success — they all allow the fans to express themselves and get rewarded and recognized for their efforts and contributions. So it’s not just that Fox is using social media as a one-way channel. They are using social media in a social way, adjusting their efforts to fit the technology and culture of their fans’ social networks.

    The focus on user experience and embrace of new technology is clearly paying off. Glee has hit the trending topics list on Twitter 3 times in the last week. (Last Wednesday, Friday, and again last night).

    Hardie and the Fox team deserve kudos for their embrace and innovative use of these new social technologies. Sure I’m biased because they’re using our technology for the Biggest Gleek game, and working with their team has been a blast. But it is not often that a major media company like Fox will embrace and leverage new technology so early, so enthusiastically, and with such success.

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  4. I am not a fan of Fox so I am not biased:-) But I agree with you that they absolutely deserves kudos for the courage they are showing.

    The only way broadcast TV will ever have a future is through initiatives like this making the broadcast the center of attention and more valuable then looking at a series on a On Demand option.

    If the others don’t follow Fox will be the big winner now that OnDemand is taking so much ground.

  5. Fox is doing some pretty innovative stuff with TV & New Media. I am excited to see where all of this experimentation leads to.

  6. OMGosh dude you have got to be kidding me!


  7. Clickbank Product Reviews Sunday, September 20, 2009

    Glee looks Glay.

    Or maybe it was just Michael Buckley.

    I tend to automatically reject anything that tries that hard to make itself hip with the “scene” (no matter which “scene” it may be). There might be some humor and some innovation there, but I didn’t see enough in the pitch to make me tune in.

    I’m also seeing evidence of this desperate attempt to make a show “cool” in the commercials on some of the other networks for new shows this fall. It’s as though the producers believe that they have to sell the show on style instead of substance. Whenever I see that, I question whether there’s any substance at all.

    I suppose this isn’t anything new, though…SOS.

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    [...] Glee. And while we’ve written extensively over the last year about the show’s online marketing last fall, its Twitter popularity and its use of MySpace for casting calls, watching several consecutive [...]

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    [...]  0 We’re big fans of Glee here at NewTeeVee, especially the way that the show has used smart marketing and social networks like Twitter and MySpace, and the way that it has become a social phenomenon [...]

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