An Expert View — Todd Spencer: Let the audience really have an impact

Power Politics CBC  An Expert View — Todd Spencer: Let the audience really have an impact

As part of our series “An Expert View”, this week we welcome Todd Spencer, Executive Director, CBC News Network. Todd talks about the social TV experiment deployed for the show Power & Politics. Using a technology developed by the Norwegian company, CBC gave the floor to Power & Politics viewers, who could vote and comment in real time.

In what ways is Power & Politics the perfect program for the integration of the voice of viewers in real time via social media?

Power and Politics is the number one daily political program in Canada. It has a dedicated and loyal audience. That audience is also highly engaged in the program through social media, mainly Twitter and Facebook. At the same time, the production team at Power and Politics is open to new challenges, and are themselves very engaged in the social media space. Evan Solomon, Rosie Barton, and the program producers are active and engaged in social media. All of those reasons combined made Power and Politics the perfect starting place for us to look for a way to bring the audience into the program.

What is the principal added value for CBC that you see in the system set up for Power & Politics?

The content on Power and Politics, on a traditional platform (TV) generates a lot of content in the social media space. We could see the audience wanted to participate in the show. So we wanted to find a way to bring the audience into the show in a meaningful way. The traditional platform was creating content in the non-traditional space. And we wanted to bring the content in the non-traditional space back into the traditional space, and actually inform the programming. Let the audience really have an impact. We feel like this technology allows us to do this, because it is fast, easy to use, and most important, meaningful.

How might the strategy developed for Power & Politics be beneficially integrated into other CBC programs?

We are looking at that right now. We do not think this will work for all platforms. Live programs obviously work best, and perhaps even exclusively. And some shows may only have segments of programming that work well, rather than the entire show. That is what we are looking at. Where is the best place to do this, in a way that remains meaningful for the audience. We aren’t going to do this just to say we are doing it. It has to mean something for Canadians. That’s the opportunity. To be inclusive in a meaningful way. At the same time, we do want this to become something that in a year from now, or less, CBC News Network is known for.

Do you think that viewers can really change the course of a program via social media?

Yes, absolutely. It is happening now, with this technology at Power and Politics. We WANT the viewers to change the course of the programming. That’s why we are doing it. If they are telling us, through social media, what questions to ask, what direction to go, etc, we will follow that lead.

In your opinion, what is the next big challenge for social television?

It continues to be to make it meaningful for the audience. If they are going to take the time to engage, they better see the results. It cannot be a phony process. That is the risk. It is why we waited so long for the right technology.


If you missed our last interviews:
• Diane Wild: How will Canada survive the Netflix era?
• Mike Proulx: Towards the inevitable consolidation of Social TV
• Emma Wells: Social media impact on television will be astronomical
• Olivier Missir: The value of the social Web has yet to be accurately assessed