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USA Network trends worldwide during upfront

As USA Network announced a ramped up social TV strategy for the summer, its upfront took place at NYC’s Lincoln Center. The event was produced as way more than just an opportunity to announce their new programming. From the red carpet to fan involvement to one of their biggest announcements during the presentation, social TV was part of the production. We spoke with Jesse Redniss, SVP of Digital for USA Network, Jason Hoch, SVP of Digital for WWE and several USA’s “Characters”.

USA has gone above and beyond when it comes to working with partners to help push social TV forward. They even listed GetGlue, Miso, Shazam and Viggle in their upfront advertisement that showed up in AdAge, The New York Times and more. Their Hashtag Killer platform was a huge success and their innovative use of Viggle, Miso and Yap.TV (which has been installed over 125,000 times) has shown they’re deeply invested in trying out new social TV strategies.

Redniss explained that one of the, “big goals we had was to trend worldwide,” a goal they achieved twice with the help of fan-filled red carpet and a massive WWE announcement made via a live tweet. They also invited over 100 of their top fans across their shows to the red carpet and event. We interviewed Redniss in this video after the presentations.

Hoch described the role social played in the announcement that WWE (who recently revamped their website to live on top of social) will be launching #RAWactive. “The big announcement is that Raw is expanding to three hours and it will be more interactive and social than ever before,” he explained. “Really for the first time we will bring our fans into the game and let them be part of the voting, part of the process, using social tools,” he added. He also described how John Cena made this announcement. “We had a surprise – John Cena came out – no one knew about it and he announced it and within minutes it was trending on Twitter, the hashtag #3hourRaw”.

USA’s talent were excited to speak about the importance of social to their careers, their shows and the network.

Peter Gallagher (27,974 followers on Twitter) of Covert Affairs:

I think its remarkable about USA is that they’re really right in the book right now in terms of marketing in this era. The fact is they embrace social media right off the bat, just like the way they do everything else, not in a haphazard way, in a focused and strategic matter, it’s really effective. It’s been interesting because Chris Gorham got me tweeting about a year ago. I’m stunned, I love them [my follwoers]. I love talking to them and it does my heart good. In a way I can’t overstate the importance especially in this era now when so much effort is being made to divide us, to polarize us for reasons of politics or power or money or whatever…we’d much rather all get along and accept the fact that we’re all on this boat together which is what social media does so brilliantly. It’s the present it’s the future and I think it could be our salvation.

Dulé Hill (110,954 followers on Twitter) of Psych:

I talk to the fans everyday. It’s a part of my lifestyle. I actually get my morning news through Twitter now. I’ve been on it for about a year. We get instant feedback, when the episode airs I get a chance to interact with the fans right away and tell me what they like and don’t like about the show. I’ve done Character Chatter a couple of time and will do some more – really whatever they ask me to do. I was very reluctant to get into social media – I was a little skeptical at first. Once I got into I love it. It’s like Al Pacino, when you try to get out he keeps pulling you back in. You can’t leave social media once you get there. I enjoy interacting with folks who I don’t know, from all over the world. That’s what I enjoy the most…on Twitter over time you just get to know different handles and what’s going on with them and things like that…Out of seasons their are long gaps between off the air on the air – any time we can do something involving social media to keep the audience engaged and even build the audience is great. There are different folks who like playing these role playing games [Hashtag Killer] that may not be aware of the show. The more you can do that the better. It gives our fans something to look forward to. That’s why I like to tweet them from them set.

Warren Cole (42 connections on LinkedIn) from new series Common Law:

I think social media is affecting television in that it’s integrated into entertainment already. It’s part of television, it’s part of movies. There’s an immediate response to anything now because of social media and that’s the same for entertainment. you’re not going to be able to get away with much because you’re going to get the criticisms, the voice of the people, just like in politics how social media’s affecting that. It’s democratic. [USA Network] They’re very aware of it, of how important social media. I get a lot of pressure to be a part of social media and I understand why – because it is so integrated, I just need to catch up a little bit…now it’s like say what you gotta say whenever you want to say it and I rarely feel like I have something important to announce to enough people.

Ryan Johnson (1,410 followers on Twitter) of Fairly Legal:

I’m on a show called Fairly Legal, I play the new character Ben and if you’ve seen any of the social media on Fairly Legal, my character came along to divide the crowd and he certainly did that. I’m on Twitter – it’s like a direct kind of way for communicating with people watching the show. As people are watching it they’ll be chatting to us about how they’re thinking and feeling about the way things are going with the story line, stuff like that. It gives us great feedback on what people like and also what they don’t like. It’s awesome in that regard… in the old days it would take a long time to find out what people thought about the show, now were finding out in the moment. Tomrorow night I’m doing a thing called Character Chatter on USA so fans can be watching the show and they can chat away about what they love and hate about Ben Grogan.

Michael Trucco (7,618 followers on Twitter) of Fairly Legal:

I’m terrible at it actually. I screw up all the time. Baron Vaghn tweeted something. I responded to him saying, WTF, where are you, we’re all at dinner, the whole cast is here, come join us. Randomly, some gril says, oh my god, I know this wasn’t for me, but oh my god I feel like I can join you for dinner. She was somewhow, she got caught in the Twitter train that I responded to. I thought I was talking to Baron, I invited someone I never met in my life to come have dinner with us. She was here today with the fans… Baron Vaughn is my tutor in these matters.


The USA Network control room for the very social upfront.

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