We’ve won the Eurovision Song Contest now let’s show the world how to innovate it
Saturday night Dutch singer Duncan Laurence won the Eurovision Song Contest. 44 years after Ding-a-Dong, the Netherlands once again managed to bring forward a winning performance. On Sunday the discussion started on where in the Netherlands next year’s edition should take place and who should pay for it. The biggest opportunity however is innovating the flagship of European live television and showing that the Netherlands is a global leader in making ground breaking television.
The Eurovision Song Contest is the World cup of musical television, it inevitably ranks amongst the most popular live programmes in the more that 50 participating countries. People skip a night of Netflix and come back to traditional television for these shows. They are an exclusive club that includes the Superbowl, the World Cup, Alibaba’s Single Day Gala and the opening ceremony of the Olympics. This is where broadcasters can show the true value of live television, where they can create shared experiences and drive the conversations at the water cooler or on social media.
Truly embrace the digital platforms
To continue to do so, the way that the Song Contest is televised should be innovated, it should embrace the changing viewing patterns and media consumption preferences. The key step is putting digital platforms central — both broadcasters’ and 3rd party social media — to cater for the growing group that has abandoned traditional television. By fully embracing these platforms, the broadcasters open a wealth of possibilities to improve the viewing experience: extending the experience, gamification, social interaction, free voting and user generated content. All of these appeal to younger audiences who the European broadcasters are gradually losing to global commercial super platforms like Netflix, YouTube and Fortnite.
The improved viewing experience and the young audiences would make the Song Contest attractive again for global sponsors. They too are looking to associate with events that combine a large audience, brand safe content with innovation and engagement for a younger audience.
So what might these innovations look like?
In the weeks before the Song Contest the story telling should begin. There are many bigger and smaller things you can do: you can engage influencers to do back-stories on the contestants from the different countries. You can build TikTok audio tracks for all the songs kicked off by the actual contestants. You can launch a series of Insta or Snapchat filters of classic performers. You can gamify the Song Contest by creating a fantasy-sports like team of artists. There are many ways that you can start to build tension, especially for the younger audiences.
The actual event would be live streamed inside the apps of the broadcasters, on mobile but also on smart TV’s. More than one live stream can be made available — allow viewers to seamlessly and synchronously switch between views of the main stage, green room, audience and feeds from participating countries. On top of the live streams there is a chat feature with Reddit like up-/downvoting so the best viewers’ comments are visible to anybody.
Voting would also change. Next to declining traditional SMS vote, viewers would be able to cast 100’s of micro votes, in-line with likes or hearts on social media. This would not change the actual voting rules, but it would be a much more enjoyable experience. The continuous data stream that all of these interactions provide, are visualised in the set of the Songfestival so the feedback of the audience is tangible throughout the show.
Presenting will not only be done by the official voices, but there would be a choice of commentary tracks. So you would be able to choose commentary from PewDiePie, DJ Armin Van Buuren or Ellen DeGeneres. After the event you can allow viewers to restream the event with their own commentary side-by-side with the actual stream. This is called co-streaming on Twitch where it is available for certain NBA matches, the Game awards and Doctor Who marathons.
The innovative Dutch video industry
The creative and technical capabilities to do all these things are available in the Netherlands. Despite a very small home market, leading production houses like Talpa, Endemol and Blue Circle have created an ecosystem of young tech-savvy companies that provide innovative concepts and solutions, including Media Monks, 24i and Ex Machina. In the last decade these companies have spread their wings and are now working for the largest media companies in the world, like Google, Amazon, Netflix, NBC, Gazprom Media, Globo Brazil and Alibaba. They are eager to use their skills to help the traditional media stay relevant.
Innovating the flagship of European live television would be an excellent way of showing the capabilities of this sector and to set a benchmark for the struggling public broadcasters across the continent. The returns of such an investment would be much more than a one-off event, it would create economic and social value for the Netherlands and Europe as a whole.
UPDATE: After publication the head of Digital of EBU contacted me to explain the digital efforts this year. The song contest was live streamed on YouTube and you can vote in the app albeit through a SMS gateway. Influencers and TikTok were also used this year. Although I honestly applaud these efforts, they seem isolated from the format and don’t seem to travel outside of their own silos/channels. This is a requirement if the EBU want to continue to bring generations and countries together. Truly innovating the format, means making interactivity, gamification, user generated content and cross platform storytelling part of the viewing experience. On digital platforms but even more so on television.
Jeroen Doucet is Chief Strategy Officer of Ex Machina Group and leads its professional services department ComingNext.TV. Ex Machina develops interactive video apps for television, on social media platforms and stand-alone. Its clients include NBC, Amazon, Fox Sports, Channel 4 UK, ZDF, Viacom, GazProm Media, EA and Twitch. Before Ex Machina, Jeroen worked for media consultancy Station10, Dutch public broadcasters BNNVARA and NPO and several media start-ups.