VH1 Raises Its Periscope Profile

App Becoming Complementary Piece of Social Strategies
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Periscope, Twitter’s new mobile live streaming app, may be a shiny, new social media tool, but it’s already gaining the attention of programmers and increasingly factoring into how they engage with viewers.

Among the most aggressive early on has been VH1, which will use Periscope and other social channels to drum up buzz for Love & Hip Hop and the May 25 live wedding  of Yandy Smith and Mendeecees Harris, members of the show’s New York cast.  Starting at 7 p.m. ET, ahead of the on-air event at 8 p.m. ET on VH1, fans will have an opportunity to watch the wedding arrival red carpet live stream via Periscope via the @LoveHipHopVH1 Twitter handle.

It will be the latest example of VH1’s use of Periscope to complement its primary programming. Among other recent examples, VH1 used the live streaming platform to host Q&A sessions with stars of Barely Famous about 15 minutes before the show went live on the network.

“We saw tremendous engagement for that,” Tom Chirico, VH1’s vice president of digital and social engagement, said, noting it generated more than 12,000 “hearts” from viewers who were tuned in to the live stream.  Even more engagement was seen recently when VH1 let teen pop star Shawn Mendes take over the network’s Periscope account to conduct some Q&A, he added.

Early on, Periscope is viewed as a “complementary component to the overall social strategy,” Chirico said.

But it could eventually be used for much more.

“I think what you'll start seeing in the future is publishers and brands actually programing Periscope…much like they do with traditional live content,” he said. “As Periscope become the norm and it becomes easier and easier to use, you’ll see some innovative uses of more highly programmed live mobile content.”

If so, that, he added, could pave the way for a revival of sorts for shows like Total Request Live, MTV’s iconic live show from the late 1990s and early 2000s that played the ten most requested music videos based of the day based on viewer voting. But instead of playing out on the TV, some new form of the idea could be presented as a live stream in the mobile realm, Chirico said.

While VH1’s work with Periscope is currently around viewer engagement, the platform also has the potential to drive in new revenues.  

“I think there’s going to be some revenue opportunity in this space,” Chirico said, noting that sponsors and advertisers are already asking Viacom about how they could factor into its use of Periscope.

He said that evolution could likely follow the path paved by other relatively new social networking platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest, possibly setting up opportunities for product placement or even pre- and post-roll advertising.

Though Periscope gives VH1 and others a new creative avenue to connect with viewers, the challenge posed by these new platforms, Chirico said, is to take an “audience-first” approach and to ensure that how they are used provide true value to the viewer.

With that in mind, VH1 is already looking at other ways Periscope can help it augment its programming. This summer, for example, VH1 plans to apply Periscope to reality show Twinning, whereby eliminated contestants will tap into the live streaming platform right after the episode debuts on the network. 

That approach will enable the show to provide viewers with a different perspective than what they see in the show, Chirico said, noting that the Twitter and Periscope teams have “been very receptive” to feedback on how to improve the experience.

VH1 and other Viacom networks have also dabbled in Meerkat, a live mobile streaming app that competes with Periscope, but Chirico gives Periscope the edge because it allows VH1 to leverage its existing Twitter base (the handle currently has about 1.24 million followers). 

“Everyone is waiting and seeing how Meerkat will be able to gain that immediate audience scale and allow brands to leverage their big followings on other platforms to deliver viewership to the live streams," Chirico said.