Revolutionary second screen partnership enhances Dream School SA impact
VALUE ADDED SERVICES
| July 25, 2014, 2:42 p.m.
The popular TV series Dream School SA has expanded its reach and impact through a partnership that takes additional content and audience engagement to mobile via WeChat.
Dream School SA, a prime time series produced by Little Leo Films and being aired on SABC, is a documentary reality show in which 15 teenagers, who have either dropped out of school or are likely to fail, are coached by celebrity mentors and teachers with a view to reignite a love for education amongst them. With a spread of teenagers representative of SA’s population and the challenges faced by the country’s youth, Dream School SA aims to inspire both them and the show’s viewers. The show has already achieved viewer numbers of up to three million, with a rapidly-growing number of followers on its official WeChat account. WeChat, Little Leo Films and the SABC have also made history on free-to-air TV in South Africa by integrating live user interaction with a pre-recorded show, with its Msg2TV functionality, which allows viewers to post messages and comments to a live ticker running during the show.
Producer Markus Davies says the show’s inspirational content and format lent itself to second screen supplementation. On the WeChat account, the audience can view additional footage, discover more about show sponsors MySchool, discuss the show, interact with the cast and even apply to be part of the second series of Dream School SA. “This helps to make the show even more dynamic and current. With experiments such as the WeChat partnership, we are able to engage more closely with viewers and take the show into new environments,” he says.
Davies says: “The audience of the future demands second screen integration. They want to talk about the show, participate in chat rooms and see additional content relevant to them. By taking programming outside of traditional broadcasting and adding context, foresight and interactivity, we are taking TV with incredible inspirational value to a wider audience. This is how TV will look in future.”
Director Paul Yule says of the revolutionary approach: “It’s fascinating to see the engagement taking place in real time with content of this sort. Traditionally, we would get some word of mouth reaction and some reviews, but in the age of WeChat, we are getting moment to moment engagement with the content, which is interesting. It also allows for all kinds of other subsidiary content to be made available and enables a non-linear approach to receiving information. We are moving toward a time when TV content will become more like the experience of surfing the web – there will be no direct line you go through, you will find your own way through to the information you want, and storytelling is just the start.”
Yule says with only the first four episodes broadcast, the WeChat platform has seen a phenomenal start and audience engagement. “I am really excited to see where it goes. I am also very interested to see what the opportunities for corporate sponsorship will be through this second screen approach. For example, there are now multiple opportunities to use a positive inspirational message such as Dream School SA’s to get their corporate message across. I hope it will help South African production houses to garner good corporate backing, which would support local programme development in future.”
The SABC, seeking to be an innovator in this space, is impressed with the social engagement with the show, noting strong early response to the onscreen real time message ticker and interactive poll during every episode.
Head of SABC 2, Gerhard Pretorius, says the channel is pleased with the reaction to the integration of social media within the show. “In the past we have requested our viewers to interact with us, but the comments lived only on the second screen device. Now those comments are reflected back to the audience on the first screen. This enables a whole conversation to take place around our content and makes our TV shows true ‘social TV’. As we measure the level of engagement on social media, we get a far better understanding of the audience’s experience and this will guide us in enhancing and enriching content that we deliver in future.”
Ronald Bach, WeChat’s New Business Manager, says the Dream School SA partnership paves the way for greater innovation in enhanced local TV programming. “WeChat is excited about working with the SABC to bring social commentary and engagement to an uplifting show such as Dream School SA. We believe this paves the way for more Social TV projects in the future.”
WeChat (http://www.wechat.com/en/) is the world’s fastest-growing social app with more than 395 million users globally. It allows users to share voice, photo, video and text messages for free across platforms and boundaries. Through Official Accounts, it also allows brands to deliver richer content experiences to their customers.