Social Media, 2nd Screen Biggest Production Challenges #LiveTV

New York -- The biggest challenge in the live TV production environment is the sheer amount of content producers must create and send out quickly, according to a panel here at B&C/Multichannel’s Business of Live TV Summit Tuesday.

“You’ve got to produce content for third party screens and iPads and phones and Twitter feeds and Facebook and so on,” said Jason Cohen, director of sports production, HBO, to moderator and TV Technology editor-in-chief Tom Butts.  “I think the greatest challenge is it’s no longer just a show. It’s like two or three shows at once.”

Joining Cohen on the panel were Efi Dilmoni, broadcast technology consultant, Orad; Larry Estrin, director, Clear-Com Global Rental Group; John Hamlin, senior VP of music events and talent, CMT; James Stellpflug, VP, sports products, Americas, EVS.

Hamlin added social media is key to jumpstarting live award show programming and the conversation begins much earlier than the show.

“The Twitter sphere and the conversation on Facebook is really starting about four hours before we shoot the live awards show,” said Hamlin. “When the show opens, the first ten or fifteen minutes, I spend an inordinate amount of my budget on the first segment of every awards show, and it’s the lowest rated part of the award show, but it starts the conversation.”

Stellpflug noted live television is mostly the same as it was 10 years ago “in terms of the live event. But the audiences, the people that are getting different things out of the show, the way they interact with that show, how it goes viral, effects the show.”

Estrin pointed out that the immediacy of content in live TV added to the challenges of producing it.

“If you can’t talk to one another, whether you’re sitting next to one another or across the world, you really can’t make it happen in a cohesive manner,” said Estrin. “Tools are being developed today, as we speak, that allow total portability. A producer sitting in the front row here, if they wanted to, could in fact be talking with a handheld system directly to somebody in China, calling some shots in some shows.”

Estrin also spoke on the continuing spectrum crunch he feels with wireless communication.

“I was over at NBC this morning and we were talking about the number of wireless production people on Saturday Night Live,” said Estrin. “I happened to have worked on the first year of Saturday Night Live. I think we had four people. Now we routinely have over a hundred people on a wireless communications device walking around the studio between the two floors that they utilize.”