Inside SXSW On, a New Streaming Network for the Music, Film, and Interactive Festival

/ Mar 15, 2015

SXSW Free, On-Demand Streaming Service

SXSW has been offering digital video to fans over the past several years, from live-streamed concerts to interviews with performers. This year, the “music, film, and interactive” festival has taken this penchant for video a step further by creating SXSW On, a streaming video network that features a live-stream of this year’s festival in addition to past footage and even some web series.

The live-stream, unsurprisingly, is what Scott Wilcox, the SXSW director of technology who’s heading up the project, believes will first get viewers interested in the new network. “We’ve seen from past efforts that people who cannot be in Austin for SXSW are very drawn to the event while it’s happening,” says Wilcox. People unable to attend SXSW use various social media platforms and the event’s live-stream to stay in touch with the action. Why not capitalize on that engagement and extend it beyond the festival’s 10 days a year?

Thus, SXSW plans to roll out content throughout the entire year. Since they can’t live-stream that whole time, they’ll have to break out from the tentpole and shift their focus to web series. Those released so far on the network, “The Road” and “The Nom Nom,” focus on musicians. The former chronicles the lives of touring musicians, while the second showcases musicians’ favorite restaurants, but their other series are straying from the music-focused mold.

The network’s announced two upcoming shows, “Secret Level” and “Ultra Mega,” that manage to cover topics other than music but still stay relevant to SXSW, which has long gone above and beyond being just a music festival. “Secret Level,” about gaming, covers the Interactive Festival, which comprises the Gaming Expo, Gaming Awards, and other gaming events/discussion. “Ultra Mega,” which follows album and poster art collectors, “draws some of its inspiration from our Flatstock poster art show, which presents the best in screen printing and is a magnet for collectors,” says Wilcox.

Other series will follow in this vein, focusing more in the “film and interactive” than the music realms. Though Wilcox says that “there are a lot of ideas in the works…right now, we’re focused on SXSW 2015.”

Overall, SXSW On emerged from a robust SXSW video history. “For the past few years, we have been streaming musical performances and talks. We’ve also been posting to our YouTube channel,” Wilcox explains what led up to the new network. “We wanted to take our efforts to the next level by making this content more broadly available.”

SXSW is doing this by putting the content on YouTube, the SXSW website, and Roku devices. They chose Roku because it’s a guaranteed way to bring this kind of content into the living room—content that younger audiences tend to watch, and tend to watch online. With Roku, these viewers are more likely to watch SXSW video on the big(ger) screen.

As for monetizing the network, SXSW plans to use ads. There aren’t any on the network yet (a good plan, if you don’t want to put viewers off early on–even that’s not the plan), but Wilcox describes these ads as “the next step.” Meanwhile, promotion is starting now, with SXSW showing off the series via their various web platforms and social media accounts. Maybe festival-goers or live-stream viewers will walk away from the 10 days of the event with the hopes of more SXSW content. Now, they’ll be in luck all year long.

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