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The New Social Contract

socialtvThe intersection between social media and TV on-air is soaring, but there is a growing trend happening off-air: social media platforms becoming key in contract negotiations between TV talent and their networks.

“With the importance of social media interaction and branding by media companies, those companies realize how crucial talent can be to drawing viewers through mobile screens,” longtime TV agent Micah Johnson tells Lost Remote. “Almost every network and TV station group is placing ‘Social Media’ clauses into talent contracts.”

For the most part, the language in these contracts are very controlling on the part of the company, demanding complete ownership of their talents’ social media activities, accounts, followers and access. For talent, caving in to these demands means risking losing their social media accounts in the event they leave their network.

“I don’t feel companies should have the ability to own an individual talent’s social media presence,” Johnson said, pointing out that most executives have no idea how much work talent puts in—mostly outside of work—to building their social media presence.

Johnson knows both the power—and lack of power—TV has in certain areas. Before becoming an agent, he started his career at CNN Headline News in the late 1980′s and later reported for NBC.

“No one comes to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to buy a widget. They come there to interact,” Johnson continues. “A TV station or network can’t interact – only a personality can.”

He shared examples of successful negotiations he’s done over social media.

“One of the game-changing social media contracts was one we did for Jenni Hogan (@JenniHogan) at KIRO-TV (Cox Broadcasting).” Recognizing her social media prowess, Johnson says Cox wanted to leverage her online influence.

“We were able to do a deal that allowed Jenni to maintain control of her social media accounts, monetize it and in addition, achieve a substantial salary for her position.” Cox also built prime-time shows around her social media skills with “Social 7 with Jenni Hogan.”

But not every negotiation Johnson has conducted went this well.

For one client, a company added language that was broad and restrictive, to the point of being “ridiculous.” After tense negotiation, Johnson was able to create language that worked for everyone.

“It’s very tough to leverage a client with little social media influence during a contract negotiation which is why I preach to all our clients that they need to ‘rock’ their online brand,” he continued. “Big salaries are harder to acquire, so we have to be creative.”

Ultimately, Johnson sees TV moving in a direction where social interaction is as important for networks as landing the big stars.

“If networks and TV stations don’t realize that with fragmented viewing, how important a substantial social media presence is, they’re going to be left behind. Social media is part of the fabric of our culture and those who embrace it, will be more successful.”

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