An interesting announcement in the social TV world: NYC-based Foursquare has signed with talent agency UTA to grow their footprint in the entertainment business. As we pointed out in February, ever since the Superbowl in 2011, it’s been unclear how the location-based social platform planned on growing in the social TV world. Regardless, TV networks have been using Foursquare as part of their social TV campaigns for a few years now.
Also today, there’s news that Foursquare is reportedly planning to launch an ad platform in June.
In September we spoke with Director of Media Partnerships Jonathan Crowley about their partnership with CBS for Amazing Race. In late November we wrote about CBS Local being the first to use Foursquare’s new list feature. We also wrote about their partnership with NBC Politics to track check-ins along the 2012 campaign trail and their badge to raise awareness for VH1 Save the Music. Under the leadership of Brent Weinstein and Eric Kuhn at UTA, Foursquare is about to make a big splash in the entertainment world.
Why is a social network signing with a Hollywood talent agency?
If it seems a bit weird to you that a major social platform is hiring a Hollywood agency, here’s a closer look. To most, the Hollywood agency is an Entourage-Ari Gold-type establishment that spins the economic wheels of the TV and film business. As Steve Jobs’ legacy has proven, technology and now social platforms are as sexy (and potentially profitable in entertainment) as an actor, actress or film or TV property. In Foursquare’s case, co-founders Dennis Crowley and Naveen Selvadurai have even modeled in a Gap ad.
The NYC and east-coast tech communities completely understand how “cool,” Foursquare is. Co-founder Crowley graduated from NYU’s ITP program where he learned from social media forefather Clay Shirky. He then sold a company to Google and then built up Foursquare after wanting to easily bar hop with friends around the East Village. Now that Foursquare’s established itself with users, partnerships and more, he’s become a celebrity in the social media and tech circles. He even recently presented the Foursquare Mayor of the Year Shorty Award to actual NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg (full disclosure: I work for the Shortys).
The problem is they don’t have an LA presence:
Variety’s coverage smartly points out that this probably isn’t a big social TV announcement, instead it’s an interesting and strategic route to secure partnerships and attention in Hollywood:
The strategy is a reflection of Foursquare’s focus on real-world locations. Signing with UTA isn’t likely to yield departures into the social-TV phenomenon, which has seen numerous start-ups put an entertainment spin on Foursquare’s approach. Nor is Foursquare looking to be turned into a TV show, get product placements or lend its logo in the lower-third of TV shows. Social-media firms like Facebook and Twitter don’t typically sign with talent agencies, though their interest in Hollywood tends to lead them to maintain West Coast offices. Foursquare is headquartered in New York and hasn’t spread out much beyond a San Francisco office that handles the engineering end of the business.
Social TV analysis:
1. UTA’s social TV expertise means we’ll be seeing more partnerships – This seems like a very smart move for Foursquare. Eric Kuhn, who heads up social for UTA, is extremely well know in the social TV industry. He has over 11,000 followers on Twitter and has previously worked at CNN, the NBA and CBS. Kuhn’s boss, Brent Weinstein who heads up digital for UTA, has built an entire social media practice that’s pushing the boundaries on how Hollywood can interact with social platforms.
2. We will start to see more of Foursquare on TV – So far, one of the major moments that Foursquare has been on TV was one investor Ashton Kutcher plugged them through a decal on his laptop. The same way it’s extremely common to hear a plug on TV to like on Facebook or follow on Twitter, Foursquare might look for creative ways to enter vernacular on TV in the appropriate places.
3. TV commercials could benefit from Foursquare call-to-actions – Foursquare could definitely benefit from Shazam-type commercial integrations where a restaurant, travel destination, car dealership, electronic store, or anything with a physical location can tell consumers to check in on Foursquare for a deal, or check out the brand’s page for a curated Foursquare list.
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