2 Tuesday, September 16th, 2008
Experimental Programming Benefits the HBO Brand
HBO is experimenting with media convergence through it’s HBOlab unit in a new web series, Hooking Up. Set in a fictional college named Bask U, the show features popular video bloggers and web celebrities. HBOlab will release the show exclusively through online video venues.
The series would emphasize content and experience over relatively low production costs, something HBO has been willing to try in the past with Project Greenlight and K Street. Both of these pseudo documentaries also leveraged star-status to help generate buzz. I expect Hooking Up will attract more visibility given advances in social media platforms and a broader reach of online video delivery.
The show’s best shot at success is each star’s ability to self promote directly to their own massive fanbases online. The sense of being approachable lends a web celebrity a distinct advantage over the contests and film stars used in previous HBO projects. Moreover, the current fanbase is already in place and quite active.
Fortunately, it sounds like the project’s success will not be measured simply on it’s ability to turn a profit, rather HBOlabs appears to have freedom to really play in the social space. Following my experience on the BMW Ramp mockumentary, I anticipate a few benefits for HBO despite the low entry costs:
- Devoted Fans
Behind-the-scenes commentaries & extra content can turn causal consumers into devoted fans, especially when a company engages them directly. Consumers that become personally invested with the stars and each other can become powerful WOM channels. Dwights Blog, Ron Moore’s Battlestar Galactica podcast and multiple Lost Podcasts are good examples.
- New Audiences
HBO has an opportunity to develop new online communities around shows, storylines and set locations. They can also attract audiences from niche communities and convert them to devoted fans.
- New Real Estate
HBO has an opportunity to develop new web properties with which sponsors will want to associate their own brands.
- New Talent
HBOlabs can develop production and creative talent into other projects at HBO. Shows & talent can cross pollinate to generate more buzz and attract fresh audiences. We realize similar benefits at SQPN.
- Generate Buzz
Free PR outlets like fans, evangelists, thought leaders and the business press help refresh HBO’s top of mind awareness and new paid subscriptions.
- Smart Positioning
Companies that invest in social media are currently perceived as youthful, approachable and technically savvy.
Hooking Up is written and directed by Sherwood “Woody” Tondrof, part of the creative talent behind “The BC“, a 2005-2006 web series spoof on Fox’s “The OC.” The BC tells the story of a troubled Boston College student who meets a kindly Jesuit priest. The show is fiction, but it effectively uses real BC students and professors and garnered national attention through a mixture of traditional and online guerrilla marketing.