Interactive Degrassi: what was simply a TV show a decade ago is
now … a cross-platform property that uses multiple media to
drive the brand.
By: Roma Khanna
Ten years ago the classic Degrassi television series ended its
first run as one of the most popular Canadian television shows ever. A decade
later it is back with the same edgy teen drama that made it a success the
first time, but this time with a twist.
The new series, Degrassi: The Next Generation, airing on CTV on Sunday nights,
has taken a multi-platform approach to television entertainment that reaches
out to kids where they are spending more and more of their time: on the
Internet, on their mobile phones and on iTV.
Degrassi: The Next Generation recognizes that while kids today face many of
the same emotional issues that they have for years, the way in which they
communicate has fundamentally changed. The Internet, e-mail, cellphones and
other tech devices are as comfortable for kids today as television and the
telephone were for kids 10 years ago. In bringing back the Degrassi series, TV
producer Epitome Pictures and Web producer Snap Media convinced broadcaster
CTV that a new Degrassi that purported to speak to kids on their own level
needed to embrace and incorporate these new methods of communication.
In a unique partnership of traditional and new media, Degrassi: TNG was
developed from the very start as a cross-platform property that would use
multiple media to tell stories, build a community, drive the Degrassi brand
and ultimately create new advertising and revenue opportunities. The show,
produced by Epitome Pictures, lives on-air as well as online through the
http://www.degrassi.tv portal produced by Toronto’s Snap Media. With the support of
CTV, Bell Canada, Bell Mobility and Bell ExpressVu, Degrassi has also reached
its audience through wireless applications and a season finale iTV episode.
The online version of the Degrassi Community School allows kids to register to
become virtual Degrassi students. They are assigned a homeroom filled with
other real kids as well as fictional Degrassi characters. They are given a
locker space to create a personal Web page complete with customized polls,
photo albums and a journal. They receive D-mail (a private e-mail system
exclusively for http://www.degrassi.tv registrants) and use the http://www.degrassi.tv
environment to communicate not only with other fans but also with show
characters. All of this content is served up by a content “syndication” engine
that delivers content to audience members in timed relation to their local
broadcast schedule. The online world aims to capture the attention of the
show’s audience between episodes by building on television plots and creating
a community around the brand, ultimately driving the success of the property
The popularity of the site is clear, with more than 46,000 registered users,
75% of whom are in the show’s core demographic between 13 and 17 years old. A
recent survey of the online community revealed that over 80% of the online
audience visits the site more than twice a week, with 25% of the audience
visiting more than five times a week. As well, 85% of audience members are
there for more than 15 minutes at a time, with 33% visiting up to two hours.
And they are telling their friends about it: Almost two-thirds of the audience
have passed along information to friends on how to register as an online
member. In terms of strengthening the TV brand, 67% stated that the Web site
makes the TV show more enjoyable for them.
This type of traffic, from a dear and identified demographic community,
suggests real value for Degrassi advertisers. With the site’s popularity now
clearly established, season two will move beyond the simple online ads of
season one to more innovative approaches to advertising, online content
sponsorship and cross-platform campaigns. Integrated campaigns will be
packaged for advertisers by Bell Globemedia Interactive and CTV.
With successes like Degrassi, the message to advertisers is clear: Be where
your audience is. More and more, we will see broadcasters offering integrated
media packages that take advantage of all the channels into the audience’s
home. Advertisers are well-advised to work with broadcasters and new media
companies to determine how to mine the potential of interactive and
personalized relationships with audience members.
While the future of television may still be evolving, it is clear that it will
involve a more integrated approach to content and advertising using
cross-platform content to speak to audiences on their own terms.