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Interview: Why CANAL+ Spain took Game of Thrones transmedia

Discover how the pay TV channel engaged audiences beyond TV with crossmedia platform Conducttr

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Game of Thrones 19 Reinos

It’s increasingly important these days to engage the audience with your content and your message, if you want to stand out in the crowd of other shows in a positive way. Fostering loyalty through immersive and rewarding engagement is what everyone should be doing, but not everyone is.

The methods for going about this are as varied as the shows on offer right now. You can choose to do it the (fairly) easy way of VH1, who in order to promote the second series of their drama show Hit The Floor let the cast take control of the channel’s Instagram account for a weekend, as well as launching a web-only spinoff series of the show called Inside The Arena.

Or you could approach the challenge like the producers of Feuten, a hit series in Holland about a fraternity with a lot of secrets. Their app, launched in connection with the premiere of the third season, was an app that let the audience become fraternity members themselves. The venture was a massive success, even if it was discontinued for budget reasons.

Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, why not look at one of the most watched (and pirated) series of today, and what their broadcaster in Spain decided to do.

Game of Thrones is hugely popular around the world. Still, it’s competing with a lot of other shows. In Spain, CANAL+ decided they wanted an immersive campaign that would glue the viewers to the content on offer throughout the season, not only as a marketing campaign. They launched transmedia game 19 Reinos (”19 Realms”, photo) together with Conducttr from the UK, to great success.

I talked to Rob Pratten, CEO at Conducttr and Berni Melero, head of interactive at CANAL+ Spain, to find out just what the channel wanted out of it and how they approached the challenge.

 

Simon Staffans: So, what was the brief? How did you start off?

Rob Pratten: CANAL+ really wanted to create something new in its marketplace; something that was truly transmedia in nature and that would delight the Game of Thrones audience.

Berni Melero: CANAL+ subscribers already lead multiplatform, connected lives, so it’s natural that the company is moving away from being a TV content provider towards being a provider of multiplatform experiences.

The brief was:

- Create a unique and personalised multimedia immersive experience

- Generate conversation among fans and buzz in media around season 4 of Game of Thrones

- Generate engagement by evoking passion from the loyal, hard-core fans both online and offline

- Create something amazing that Canal+ nor other Spanish companies had tried before.

 

> Sounds like quite a brief. How did you approach it?

Rob Pratten: CANAL+ already had the tagline for their Game of Thrones 4th season campaign: “Si Lo Vives, Es Verdad” which directly translates as “if you live it then it’s true”. But a better translation might be “perception is reality”. This means that CANAL+ wants users in the center of its activities. So we started from the idea that we would bring the world of Westeros to Spain – overlaying a fictional world onto the real world.

We then looked at the world of Game of Thrones and distilled its essence and the core tropes of betrayal, loss and territorial conflict.

The result was the world of 19 Realms – a massively multiplayer role-playing game in which fans pledge fealty to a great house and fight for that house to conquer Spain’s 19 autonomous communities. When they’re not fighting, fans can betray, seduce and give gold to each other and well as buying potions, shields, swords and clothes. Our Conducttr technology allows CANAL+ to connect and reward fan activity online, offline and on social media so we’re able to create a truly immersive cross-platform experience that allows the fans to believe Westeros really has come to Spain.

Importantly, the game is played on social media – predominantly Twitter – but XP (experience points) can also be gained through participation on Facebook. In the first half of the season fans also had to physically go into FNAC stores to collect gold, silver and bronze in order to build wealth to buy in-game inventory. In the second half of the season fans can draw a salary from the 19 Reinos website.

Because the game is a full-on RPG which might be a little complex for some fans unfamiliar with this genre, we created our own character, Edwyck, who appears in a five-episode web series explaining the rules and there is a beautifully illustrated downloadable strategy guide. We also used the Canal+’s TV broadcasts of Game of Thrones to introduce the game and some special codes to those who watched on their TVs or via internet.

Last but not least, we worked with our strategic partners:

1. Djehouti, who built an interactive website that integrates with Conducttr’s API. The website allows fans to check their inventory, badges, health, stamina, wealth and strength; conduct ‘face–off’ comparisons with other fans, and, of course, check the map of Spain to see if they’ve been made king or queen of a realm.

2. Gaming site Meristation and retailer FNAC, who play a fictional role in the experience, representing an online brothel and a forest where users can get special rewards.

 

> How much did you research your audience? How?

Berni Melero: CANAL+ knows the audience very well – that is, both their subscribers and fans of Game of Thrones who might not necessarily subscribe to Canal+.

In past seasons of Game of Thrones, CANAL+ developed other projects with a high engagement component and that provided insights about the fans and what they’re passionate about.

Our focus was on the Game of Thrones fan and making sure we understood the world of Game of Thrones. We knew that any misstep in the storyworld would break the immersion and lead to dissatisfaction. Hence although everyone on the team is a big fan of the show, CANAL+ provided a special ‘super fan’ to vet all the content to ensure everything was definitely in-world and would be liked by the fans.

 

> Some experiences don’t travel very well – how was it for you to work in another territory? Did you have to adapt a lot?

Rob Pratten: Well we didn’t really see it as another territory. The project was led by Belen Santa-Olalla, who’s our senior creative consultant. She’s from Madrid and divides her time between Spain and the UK. Belen worked very closely with the Canal+ team to understand its needs and understand the experience of past campaigns.

The whole experience was built on Conducttr exclusively for Canal+ and for the Game of Thrones experience so there was no adaptation of existing work – everything was natively developed for this specific campaign.

 

> With all that preparation, how did it finally turn out?

Berni Melero: Taking into account that CANAL+’s goals and KPIs were related to engagement and immersion rather than to number of users, the response has been amazing. This is not just in terms of social media traffic and conversation – the game alone has had over 100,000 tweets, which peak at 85 tweets per minute on Monday nights – but also the passion and exploration that fans bring to social media in the form of user-generated content. Fan activity on Facebook is up 5 times compared to previous years’ interactive projects, and Twitter traffic last Monday was up 34% on the previous week’s traffic. Now we’re 8 weeks in and engagement isn’t dropping off, it’s increasing.

Rob Pratten: As fans have reacted to the game and to other player behaviour so we’ve tweaked the mechanics and inventory items to show we’re listening. Everything is built on Conducttr, so there’s no coding required by the game designer or social media manager, and we’ve been able to produce metrics that have been fed back to the players on Facebook.

We kicked everything off with a live event to introduce our character Edwyck, and he’s been very popular throughout.

 

> What were the core benefits for CANAL+?

Berni Melero: The world of 19 Realms and the role-playing concept creates lots of opportunities to engage fans in side-quests and user-generated content, so the content strategy has been able stick to in-world entertainment, which the fans love.

It provides CANAL+ with unique, personalised and successful relationships with its subscribers and fans. This delivers on several goals it has as a pay-tv platform.

It also gives CANAL+ a new way to talk to the media about Game of Thrones. In terms of publicity, this provoked the mention and appearance of 19 Realms as an innovative experience in a lot of different media and news articles, blog posts and social network publications. And it made media and users to talk about Canal+ not only as a TV broadcaster, but also an experience facilitator.

 

> Game of Thrones has already been the subject of some great beyond-TV campaigns. Did any of them inspire you?

Rob Pratten: We looked at other campaigns only to make sure we didn’t copy them. Campfire in New York did a great campaign for Game of Thrones in the US, but we drew our inspiration not from campaigns but from RPGs (role playing games) and LARPs (live action role playing games). We felt that there would be good cross-over with fans of those games and Game of Thrones fans. No other TV campaign has used the Conducttr pervasive entertainment platform, so we were always going to be unique in being able to create something so extensive so quickly and relatively cheaply, given the level of ambition.

 

Simon Staffans is a format developer for MediaCity Finland, and a frequent contributor to MIPBlog. Be sure to follow him on Twitter!

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