Viacom Labs adding livestreaming fans to linear TV

MTV Australia will be the first Viacom brand to add livestreaming fans to linear broadcasts. Image: MTV Australia

Soon, viewers of Viacom networks like MTV or Comedy Central could have the opportunity to join live broadcasts by using livestreaming apps.

Susan Claxton, co-head of Viacom Labs, said the new technology is in keeping with the Labs’ mission to explore the future of fan experiences and engagement.

“Many broadcasters and brands are creating content for livestream. But what really got us interested was, could we give livestreaming the scale of linear television?” said Claxton.

Viacom Labs first had to figure out the technology needed to make the addition of livestreaming fans possible. Viacom was able to find technology that allowed it to scrub social media platforms for hashtags and turn a PC or smartphone into a production track.

“In addition to seeing the various cameras you have in a situation, any fan who puts in the hashtag becomes another camera,” said Claxton.

After that the Lab reached out to Viacom’s brands to find a willing guinea pig and MTV Australia raised its hand. For the test, which was conducted out of MTV Australia’s UK-based control room, Viacom employees from New York, London and Australia all used the same hashtag and then their live feeds began popping up in the production environment. From there, Viacom was able to port those feeds over to live TV in order to feature livestreams of dancing fans during a one-hour music video block.

For the test, Viacom used Periscope but Claxton says that the programmer is able to pull in livestreams from all the big platforms including Facebook Live and YouNow.

Claxton said the livestreaming technology could be used for existing content as well as brand new programming. MTV Australia, which will be launching the feature before Viacom brings it to the U.S., is launching a new show that will build on the concept of technology test.

In addition to building in a means for production teams to pull up livestreams during a broadcast, Viacom Labs also built in a delay in order to appease standards and practices and prevent any potential funny business on the part of live streamers. Claxton also said Viacom added the ability to queue up livestreams and then push them to air when the production teams wants.

Viacom doesn’t have a specific date for when U.S. viewers will have the opportunity to join live TV via streaming apps but Claxton said Viacom Labs is actively working with many of Viacom’s different brands to figure out the next steps.