Tony Awards Dive Into the Digital Stream
Think the Tony Awards and “The Walking Dead” don’t have anything in common? You must only be watching the first screen.
This year the Tonys will launch a second-screen digital destination, with interactive content set to stream during the annual live kudocast on CBS — a measure other TV skeins, such as the AMC zombie hit and HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” also have taken to cultivate fan enthusiasm beyond the TV screen.
Aimed at reaching younger auds on the mobile screens where they live, the Tonys’ digital push endeavors to combat a trend that has seen viewership for the kudocast decline in recent years, from 7.4 million viewers in 2009 to around 7 million in 2010 and 2011, and to 6 million last year. The 2013 edition, hosted again by Neil Patrick Harris, airs June 9.
But the digital initiative also takes into consideration an awards show that’s long been challenged by the tension between the kudocast’s nationwide footprint and the mostly local profile of the new productions being honored.
“One of the issues we have is that the Tonys are the beginning of a conversation with the national audience rather than the end of a conversation, which is what it is for all of us in the industry,”
says Heather A. Hitchens, exec director of the American Theater Wing, which co-presents the Tonys every year with the Broadway League.
Without the benefit of the multi-million-dollar marketing campaigns that movies get, legit titles usually require two things to achieve pop-culture prominence: longevity and a national touring production. A slew of Tony Awards doesn’t hurt, either.
But on the Tonycast itself, the nominated new shows of the season — this year including “Kinky Boots,” “Matilda” and “Pippin” — are, by necessity, being showcased before the general public outside of Gotham knows much about them.
That’s where the Tonys’ growing digital initiatives hope to come in. Earlier this year, the Tonys and IT partner IBM launched the Spotlight On series, which rounds up info and video spots about the season’s eligible shows in order to familiarize viewers with the titles in the running for the awards race prior to the Tonycast itself.
The second-screen content — developed with Echo, the platform behind such offerings for clients including NBC’s “Dateline” and the USA Network — will stream videos, photos, backstage segments, nominee trivia, polls and other tidbits as part of the awards-night conversation.