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How FOX is the most social TV network

On the eve of Fox’s annual upfront, we spoke with David Wetheimer, the president of digital for Fox, who was also featured in a recent USA Today social TV story. The past year has been a defining one for the network’s social TV efforts. Partnering with Twitter for DM-based voting for X Factor and launching “Touch,” the first ever global social launch were just among their many innovations.

According to Bluefin Labs (for data between 9/19-11 and 5/6/12), Fox is the leading social TV network in the US with the most amount of “total social comments (among any TV network; cable/premium cable or broadcast)” and has the most number of “total unique social authors (among any TV network; cable/premium cable or broadcast)”.

Trendrr data shows much of the same. FOX was the top social broadcast network for the month of April with 28% broadcast social share, with NBC trailing in second place at 21%. Here are just a handful of the social TV activations Fox has implemented as key parts of their programming.

- X Factor: An innovative second screen app for X Factor, including one touch voting.

- Glee: Launching “Gleek of the Week,” where they gave shout outs to individual fans online and on-air.

- Touch: Launching “Mapping the Connections” to make sense of the show including a “Threads of Fate” to help you map connections with your own friends.

- American Idol: Launching Idolizer, where if you cheer loud enough you might get a shout out from an Idol.

- New Girl: Launching an interactive music video to customize the opening music and credits.

Lost Remote: What’s your role within Fox?

David Wertheimer: My responsibility is to oversee all of the work we do in digital and social platforms. I oversee our product as it moves online and interactions we have with viewers across new and emerging social platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram and more. It’s an exciting business to be in because the landscape is shifting all the time. It all starts with content – you have to be making great content and have characters and casts and contestants. We fortunately make a lot of product that’s very compelling. We look to make the product available wherever they want to consume it.

LR: How does social TV fit into Fox’s TV lineup?

Wertheimer: To be honest, our team does a really good job across the slate of shows. We’re incredibly committed to it as a network, we love all of our children. If you look at the data that Lost Remote has reported on many times, American Idol was number one most social broadcast series, that’s on the unscripted side. We have shows like Glee right up there on the scripted shows. We go out of our way to enable that conversation, to go where consumers are, to be on new platforms like Pinterest and Tumblr – we really try to be there for viewers and enthusiasts wherever people want to talk about shows. The data speaks for itself.

LR: How does Fox approach social TV?

Wertheimer: We recognize that social media is a 24/7 phenomenon. We may have certain days and times that we broadcast the shows, but we really live by the fact that social is 24/7. We try to go where the viewers are and make sure they have things they can share. We treat it like an ecosystem. Cast members, show runners, our social team. We think of it being an ecosystem with people like you and others as part of this virtuous cycle and we really try to enable that so it becomes the system that people can run with.

We try not to do gimmicks. We try to really make it an overall part of the TV viewing experience. Scripted shows like Glee or New Girl, or Fringe. The next thing we do as a matter of focus, we try to innovative in a consumer-centric way – things that consumers would find interesting – new, but value added.

LR: What are the driving principles behind Fox’s innovation in social TV?

Wertheimer: We’re relentless about measuring what we do and having goals and measuring how we’re doing against those goals and then refining. I say with a lot of sincerity, its not an accident that we do well because we take it seriously from the highest levels of the network. We measure it and do more of what works and refine the things that don’t work. We evolve and innovate.

If we do all of that well, this leads us to the upfront. Then we have a great opportunity to bring our sponsors and partners to the table with us. To bring their brands into the context of the entertainment they’re excited about. Very few other networks or digital platforms can bring this scale and multi-platform approach.

LR: What can we look forward to at the Fox upfront?

Wertheimer: We’re not at the upfronts making any big product announcements per se. We are trying to be clear with people – this is a very serious business for us. The brands we work with really appreciate it. When you look at why brands advertise on television, it’s not only to reach audiences. It’s to be associated with emotional connections that people have. That’s why people don’t buy any ad in any show. If you’re an advertiser, you look at, what people am I trying to reach, where am I likely going to reach them. Whats the frame of mind they’ll be in when they consume that particular content.

There are an increasing number of choices to buy digital advertising or television. If they [the advertisers] can work with people who really value delivering consumer experiences across multiple platforms, that’s the best possible play for them.

LR: How will social TV evolve within the industry?

Wertheimer: I think that more and more people will start to appreciate that the experience of consuming high quality content can be enriched through digital media and social media. A lot of the things we try and do around American Idol and other shows, we try to do things that in no way takes away from your entertainment. Some people today are competing with themselves. We do a lot of second screen apps, we do it in a way that tries to add value, not take you away from the experience that you came to enjoy in the first place.

It’s finding that balance. It really is about adding value to the experience and creating this rich tapestry in digital and social that creates a 360 experience. The industry has talked about this for awhile. We are evolving all the time and I’m sure we will be doing a lot of new things by the time we talk a year from now. Technologies will change, services will change, this year’s Instagram will be something else. The principles will absolutely apply as we create multi-platform experiences.

This is such an exciting time in this business. It’s about choice, multi-platform, enriching the experience for consumers – as long as we continue to do that, we will all benefit and win.

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