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It's No Secret What the Cool Kids Watch: MTV Is Cashing In With Sponsors as Young Viewers Show-and-Tell Through Social Media

In reaching the Millennial generation, it's not just about the programming they watch. What's more important is the content they share.

"That's what they really care about the most-how do I share this content among my peers," says Melissa Shapiro, senior VP, group client director, at MediaVest. "It's about providing access to that content that makes them feel a part of something bigger."

In addition to making it easy to share content, Shapiro says networks are creating multiplatform experiences that "force real-time viewing, so that the morning-after watercooler might actually just be a bit too late," Shapiro says.

Advertisers are eager to go along for the ride to better reach Millennials. "The consumer is going to be everywhere where the content is strong and it's relevant to them and then they can socialize it. I think it's up to the marketer to be everywhere where that consumer is," Shapiro says.

Stephen Friedman, president of MTV, says the network has been finding ways to give sponsors access to the huge social media footprint it has amassed among its Millennial viewers.

For example, State Farm is the digital sponsor of MTV's Unplugged. A preview clip from Florence and the Machine's performance on the show was available via both MTV's and State Farm's social networks, with State Farm branding attached.

"To have that clip that no one else has goes a long way toward building a deep engagement with not only our programming, but the relationship with the sponsor," Friedman says.

Movie studios have plenty of content that can be delivered via MTV's television and social media pipelines. Getting exclusive clips from Chronicle and The Hunger Games boosts MTV's ratings and its online traffic while creating deeper engagement for the films, Friedman says.

MTV's social media base-more than 100 million fans on Facebook alone-creates opportunities for advertisers to sponsor a show even when series are between seasons. The Facebook following for Teen Wolf increased 50% to 1.5 million fans since the show's first season ended, thanks to original content from creator Jeff Davis and tweets from the set.

"We're now going to be able to go to our advertisers and say, ‘Here is a show that you can have a 52-week relationship with across multiple platforms.' I think our sponsors are really hungry for that kind of connection, not just for the huge GRPs on TV, but everywhere our audience is living," Friedman says.

MediaVest's Shapiro says some of her clients have worked with MTV and Comedy Central on a clip-and-share technology that enables viewers to go online and share their favorite bits of shows. "As a marketer, being attached to those kinds of experiences is the right thing to do," she says.

How much does MTV charge to give sponsors access to its social media networks? "It gets factored into the broader buy across all of the screens," Friedman says. "There's obviously the TV metrics and the online metrics, and we try to figure out how is this reach added on."

E! has also been building social experiences to increase engagement with the Millennial audiences hooked on its popculture programming, according to Cyndi McClellan, president, network strategy & E! News at E! Entertainment.

In 2009, E! let viewers converse live via Facebook with Kourtney and Khloe Kardashian during an episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians. "People enjoyed that they could respond in real time with Khloe, and they felt like they were watching the episode with her," McClellan says.

McClellan notes that Millennials, a generation "that's very much into social media and being very extroverted," use social media to say, "I like this, here's my playlist, here's what I watch," to an extent that would have been considered a guilty pleasure to earlier generations. In fact, to Millennials, information about pop culture and celebrities melds into their news diets, McClellan says.

And while networks work to monetize their social-media footprints, advertisers are already benefi tting in the form of higher engagement, which translates into stronger ad recall. "We see every year, as it relates to women 18 to 34, [that] we're a top network in terms of ad effectiveness," McClellan says.