March Madness Boosts Schools’ Social Media Buzz

While there can only be one national champion in men’s and women’s NCAA college basketball, the annual March Madness tournament has made winners of the schools competing in each event.

New data from Conviva found that since day one of the tournament, the 64 dedicated women’s college basketball social media accounts have gained more than 110,000 new followers; featured 5,715 posts and videos; generated more than 3.4 million engagements; received 1.9 million views on Facebook videos; realized a 300% increase in average engagements per video across all teams compared to regular season averages; and saw a 100% increase in cross-platform engagement rate for all teams compared to regular season averages.

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On the men’s side, across all teams in the tournament, total cross-platform engagements were more than 10.6 million. Facebook was a big driver in viewership as total views across all the teams measured were 4.4 million. Throughout the tournament, the men’s basketball social accounts measured have grown in aggregate by 250,000 followers each.

Arkansas is the only team to break one million cross-platform engagements in the tournament so far, followed by Michigan and Syracuse with 867,000 and 664,000 engagements, respectively. The Sweet 16 was very sweet for Oral Roberts. Even though they lost their round of 16 bid by just two points to fellow social media titans Arkansas, Oral Roberts saw a 4332% increase in engagements (251,000) per post versus their regular season. Pre-tournament favorite Gonzaga has seen an engagement increase of 149% during the tournament compared to the regular season.

“Many fans are taking to social media to follow and support their favorite—or new favorite—teams,” read the report.

U.S. Viewers Spent 116% More Time Streaming SVOD Content on Social Video Platforms in 2020

In the highly competitive subscription streaming video market, services are using social media to engage viewers, entice subscribers and remain out front among targeted consumers.

New research from Tubular Labs, a social video analytics firm, found a 116% uptick in minutes streamed via social media among the Top 10 SVOD platforms through January with 932 million minutes, compared with 432 million minutes in February 2020 — ahead of the pandemic.

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Not surprisingly, SVODs excel at younger audience reach on social video, with 67% of top platforms’ audience between 13 and 34 years old, while only 54% of audience for top traditional TV broadcasters fall into this younger audience bucket.

The report found that Netflix diversifies its social video content more than any other SVOD, featuring longer content trailers, special behind-the-scenes content, interviews, clip compilations and talent snippets.

Tubular found that Netflix generated 93.2 million unique viewers in the U.S. across social media platforms in January — a tally that dwarfed runner-up Disney+ with 21.8 million and Amazon Prime Video with 19.9 million. Netflix’s tally is impressive considering the SVOD pioneer only has 67.5 million subs in the United States.

For example, Netflix’s award-winning series “The Queen’s Gambit,” a major hit in 2020, generated 46% of its viewership through social media searches on Facebook. About 11.7 million viewers were generated by social media influencers, including sketch artists illustrating lead actress Anya Taylor-Joy, and the chess community turned on its ear by the sudden cultural popularity; followed 6.6 million driven by media attention, i.e. TV talk shows, trade publications, etc., and 300,000 via brand recognition. The majority (21.9 million views) came from Netflix subscriptions.

The “nostalgia route” was a popular marketing strategy during the pandemic with content that reflected older/familiar movies and TV shows used most by Netflix and Disney+. Beyond subtitled or dubbed trailers, Disney+ expanded its international reach significantly in the past year,  with local channels and a social video strategy adapted to local markets. Indeed, more than 30% of Disney’s 101 million global SVOD subscribers come from India.

Redbox Giving Away Office ‘Stuff’

Redbox, the kiosk DVD rental chain and online TV streaming service, is looking to pad its social media followers. The company took to Twitter offering to give away branded merchandise and other “stuff” from its Oakbrook Terrace, Ill.-based headquarters if it gets to 350,000 followers.

“My boss said that if we got to 350K followers, I can start giving away things I find in the office,” read the tweet.

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The post attracted 309 likes, 53 retweets and 49 comments. Among the more amusing posts:

OrangeCrushtina (@OrangeCrushtina) wrote, “Show me what we’re working with before I RT this.”

@Redbox: “a mug, posters, movies and i can probably find a handful of used highlighters too”

Scott Ottersen (@scottersen), who seemed to have inside knowledge of Redbox offices, wrote: “Is the electronic basketball hoop still in the Oakbrook office? If so, dibs.”

@Redbox: “Noted”

Bruhzinga (@TweetsBostons) wrote: “Save me a Tape Dispenser and Pencil Sharpener, also I assume working at Redbox means you can hook me up with Avengers: Age of Ultron”

@Redbox: “i don’t think i could find a pencil if i tried”


Netflix Adding Comedy Clips to Mobile App

Netflix has begun rolling out short-form comedy clips for its mobile-centric subscribers. Taking a page from social media platform TikTok, Netflix’s clips — dubbed “Fast Laughs,” offer full-screen feed of funny clips from the streamer’s comedy catalog, including movie Murder Mystery; “Big Mouth” series; sitcom “The Crew,” and standup comedians Kevin Hart and Ali Wong, among others.

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“You access the feed through your bottom navigation menu by clicking on the Fast Laugh tab,” Patrick Flemming, director, product innovation, wrote in a blog post. “Clips will start playing — when one ends, another begins.”

Fast Laughs is available on iPhone in select countries, and will begin testing on Android devices in the near future, according to Flemming.

Report: Big-Screen TVs, Roku Drove Streaming Video Consumption in Q4

Viewer time spent streaming video in the fourth quarter (ended Dec. 31, 2020) increased 44% compared with the fourth quarter of 2019 — underscoring a significant year for the streaming industry, according to new data from Conviva.

Big television screens captured more than 75% of all viewing time, led by Roku with a 31% share of all TV viewing and followed by Amazon Fire TV (19%) and Samsung TV (10%).

Data was collected from Conviva’s proprietary sensor technology currently embedded in 3.3 billion streaming video applications, measuring in excess of 500 million unique viewers watching 180 billion streams per year, with 1.5 trillion real-time transactions per day across more than 180 countries.

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“The way consumers view content fundamentally changed in 2020 with launch of new streaming services, the rapid adoption of smart TVs and connected TV devices and changing social behavior,” CEO Bill Demas said in a statement. “While the year was clearly defined by spikes in streaming viewing associated with COVID-19 restrictions, the shift to streaming is anything but temporary and we anticipate global streaming viewership to continue to increase in 2021.” 

The smart-TV category drove much of the Q4 growth, experiencing a 157% year-over-year increase in viewing hours and nearly doubling in overall share of viewing time. Connected TV devices also tallied significant growth in viewing hours, up 38% year over year and earned nearly 50% share of global streaming viewing time.

Connected TV devices did lose a small percentage of share for the second quarter in a row, dropping from 51% to 49.1% year over year, due in large part to the growing popularity of smart TVs.

Big screens also dominated in engagement. Television viewers watched for an average of 28.7 minutes each time they pressed play. Chromecast demanded the longest watch time at 35.5 minutes per play, followed closely by Roku at 33.3 minutes per play. In contrast, mobile phones tallied just 8.6 minutes per play.

Social Media Streaming Declined

Cross-platform video engagement rates dropped significantly in Q4 as compared to the same time the previous year. Entertainment and brand accounts saw the largest decreases, each down around 26%, while media and sports accounts were slightly less affected with declines of 22% and 18% respectively.

YouTube was the only social platform to show an increase in audience share across the entertainment, media, brands and sports categories. Media and sports accounts saw the largest increases in YouTube followings with share increases of 5% and 5.4% percentage points respectively. Longer videos became more common on YouTube as well, with average video length increasing in sports, entertainment and media accounts by 60%, 59% and 34%, respectively.

Conviva said the social data consists of data from more than 120 accounts, over 3 million posts, 778,000 videos, 84 billion video views and more than 10 billion engagements across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

NBCUniversal Expands Social Media Content Partnership With New Twitter Deal

NBCUniversal and Twitter Jan. 25 announced an agreement that would expand original content across the social media platform worldwide.

NBCUniversal offers trending news and video from myriad high-profile events such as “The Golden Globes,” “The People’s Choice Awards,” “The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade” and Telemundo’s “Latin American Music Awards”; news on Noticias Telemundo;  and events on NBC Sports, Telemundo Deportes, Sky Sports and the Golf Channel developed and distributed on Twitter.

“By joining forces with Twitter on this new global partnership, we’re bringing NBCUniversal’s premium content directly to audiences around the world, and we’re leveraging Twitter’s platform capabilities to create even more engaging and interactive experiences,” Joe Cady, SVP of development at NBCUniversal, said in a statement.

Since 2015, NBCUniversal has invested heavily in digital platforms, including partnerships with Snap, Vox and BuzzFeed, among others. The media giant last year launched Peacock, its first branded SVOD/AVOD platform. The new deal with Twitter seeks to further involve NBCU’s brands on social media platforms.

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“NBCU represents one of Twitter’s largest and deepest content partnerships in the U.S.,” Jen Prince, VP and global head of content partnerships for Twitter, said in a statement. “This agreement expands not only their content publishing output in the U.S., but will position international markets for growth as well.”

Facebook Decries Netflix Doc ‘The Social Dilemma’ as Unbalanced

Facebook is pushing back against the Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma, which it claims misses the point about social media — and puts platforms such as Facebook in a negative light.

The 93-minute doc, which was released on Sept. 9, uses insight from former Facebook engineers (and others at Google and Twitter) to suggest that algorithms intended to bring people together through social media have instead been used to make billions of dollars by dividing people. And in today’s hyper-partisan political divide, that kind of influence and power draws criticism.

Facebook had 1.79 billion daily users in the most-recent fiscal quarter (ended June 30), generating $18.69 billion in revenue.

“It’s the gradual, slight, imperceptible change in your own behavior and perception that it is product,” says Jaron Lanier, a computer scientist and philosophy writer featured in the doc. “There’s nothing else on the table that could possibly be called the product. That’s the only thing there is for them to make money from. Changing what you do, how you think, who you are.”

Comments like that prompted Facebook to issue a seven-point rebuttal seeking to clear misperceptions.

“Rather than offer a nuanced look at technology, [the doc] gives a distorted view of how social media platforms work to create a convenient scapegoat for what are difficult and complex societal problems,” Facebook wrote.

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The platform contends the doc’s creators do not include insights from people currently working at Facebook and other social media companies, and does not include commentary that takes a different point of view.

“They don’t acknowledge — critically or otherwise — the efforts already taken by companies to address many of the issues [raised in the doc],” Facebook wrote. “Instead, they rely on commentary from those who haven’t been on the inside for many years.”

Facebook is referring to previous revelations that it unwittingly helped third-parties working with Russia to use Facebook data to undermine the 2016 presidential election.

“Despite what the film suggests, we have policies that prohibit businesses from sending us sensitive data about people, including users’ health information or social security numbers,” Facebook wrote, adding that it has made “significant changes” as part of its agreement with the Federal Trade Commission.

“We’ve created new safeguards for how data is used,” Facebook wrote.

But as doc reviewer David Ehrlich wrote in IndieWire, the film covers a “staggering breadth” of topics and ramifications, many of which are playing again in the 2020 election cycle.

“Russia didn’t hack Facebook, Russia used Facebook,” Ehrlich wrote.


Disney+ Adding ‘GroupWatch’ Feature in Social Media Push

Disney+ is the latest subscription streaming video service to jump aboard the social media bandwagon promoting co-viewership among family and friends.

Dubbed “GroupWatch,” the feature — available Sept. 29 — enables a Disney+ subscriber (in the U.S. only) to invite up to six others (with Disney+ subscriptions) to stream content and interact socially together on an Internet-connected television, laptop or smart phone. The feature, which reportedly had been tested Canada, Australia and New Zealand prior to the coronavirus pandemic, was expedited into service due to the pending second-season launch of “The Mandalorian,” ongoing theater closures and influx of housebound viewers.

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Subscribers (with the exception of children’s accounts) can share onscreen emojis (“like,” “funny,” “sad,” “angry,” “scared” and “surprised”) during a program — but cannot yet text chat with each other, a feature found on other platforms. The feature is available on all Disney+ programming with the exception of Premier Access, which means a subscriber paying $29.99 to own Mulan can’t share it with another subscriber who hasn’t purchased the movie.

“Storytelling comes alive when you’re able to share and enjoy it with others, and in this moment when many are still apart from their friends and family, GroupWatch offers a way to safely connect virtually by co-viewing your favorite Disney+ stories with your favorite people from the comfort of your living room,” Jerrell Jimerson, SVP of product management for Disney+, said in a statement.

The Social Dilemma


Not rated.

If you’ve got a kid constantly glued to their phone (which is just about every kid), this documentary may be very frightening.

The Social Dilemma, much like another Netflix doc The Great Hack (nominated for an Emmy), explores the insidious nature of social media — and how it may be controlling us. While The Great Hack looked at election manipulation, The Social Dilemma examines how algorithms are attempting to control our minute-by-minute attention — all in order to serve advertisers looking to attract eyeballs — with dangerous consequences.

Through interviews with former employees of the big tech companies and dramatic scenarios, the documentary lays out the case that social media, in its conquest to capture our attention (much like a drug), is manipulating our actions and our very perception of the world around us. To monopolize viewers’ attention, algorithms serve up a warped world that is only designed to do just that — keep us engaged. The content that it delivers is inconsequential to the impersonal algorithm (dramatically portrayed by actor Vincent Kartheiser, who many may remember from “Mad Men”), which doesn’t care how violent, slanted or downright untrue that content is. In fact, the more incendiary or untruthful, the more engaging that content is. All the algorithm (Kartheiser) cares about is how long it can keep a subject’s attention.

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The fictional sections of this hybrid doc — in which actors portray the effects of social media — work to dramatize digital control, but not always to a great effect. Some of the scenarios seem a bit overdrawn. Still, the actors help illustrate the real-world implications of social media, and in the case of Kartheiser (playing the algorithm trying to get the actors’ attention), personify the intentions of an abstract concept that many may find hard to understand.

Indeed, it is control that the algorithm wants — control of our time. And, in taking that control, the algorithm pushes our thinking and actions in directions that they might not have gone otherwise.

One of the most shocking moments in the documentary is when a tech exec — who admits to being addicted to social media — says he won’t let his children have screen time.

If social media is so dangerous that its creators won’t let their own children use it, why should we?

‘Cuties’ Director Responds to Media, Political Backlash

NEWS ANALYSIS — In an era of hyper-partisan politics during an election year, Netflix’s French-language film Cuties, about an 11-year-old girl from Senegal who joins a dance troupe to escape an overbearing mother, has found a perfect storm.

No issue riles people more than child endangerment and/or exploitation. Throw in the Internet and social media, and incendiary charges of sexualization of underage girls quickly morph into child pornography and worse.

That’s the reality Netflix and Cuties director Maimouna Doucouré find themselves in as national politicians, parent groups and right-wing media jump on the bandwagon of condemnation — with pitched calls to boycott the film and cancel Netflix subscriptions across social media (#CancelNetflix).

Former presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) called Cuties “child porn” on Twitter, claiming the movie would “certainly whet the appetite of pedophiles [and] help fuel the child sex trafficking trade.”

Netflix says the movie projects the opposite message.

Cuties is a social commentary against the sexualization of young children,” the service said in a statement. “It’s an award-winning film [Sundance Film Festival] and a powerful story about the pressure young girls face on social media and from society more generally growing up — and we’d encourage anyone who cares about these important issues to watch the movie.”

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Regardless, Netflix has no less than three petitions circulating on totaling almost 1 million supporters seeking to either remove the movie or drop the service. The platform is undermined in part by its own content tracking metric that registers a viewer after just two minutes. As a result, Cuties — despite requiring English-language captions for most American viewers — is trending as the 7th most-popular program on the platform after launching on Sept. 9.

Then a Sept. 14 report from research firm YipitData suggested Netflix was experiencing record churn, or subscribers not renewing service, with eight times more subs dropping the service on Sept. 12 than did in August, according to Fox Business. Netflix, per policy, does not report churn data. It ended the most-recent fiscal period with 193 million subscribers.

When Netflix tried to soften the movie’s marketing by replacing images of the young female characters in suggestive dance poses, critics only amplified their response.

“By removing the offensive poster and replacing it with a more innocuous one, Netflix might actually have made the situation worse by suggesting that Cuties is nothing more than a cute, coming-of-age movie,” Melissa Henson, program director for the Parents Television Council, a non-partisan education organization advocating responsible entertainment, said in a statement.

In a virtual interview hosted by French cinema’s UniFrance, director Doucouré appeared taken aback by the media criticism and social backlash.

“The most import thing is to watch the film and understand we have the same fight [against child exploitation],” Doucouré said, adding she thought the film would be accepted in the U.S. despite differences between French and American culture.

“It played to Sundance and was watched by American people there; I met the public there and they really saw that the film is about a universal issue,” Doucouré said. “It’s not about French society — the hyper-sexualization of children happens through social media and social media is everywhere. People [at Sundance] agreed with that.”

Netflix reports third-quarter fiscal earnings (ending Sept. 30) on Oct. 15.