How Can Web Video Have a ‘Sharknado’ Moment?

/ Jul 12, 2013

sharknado

I made a tragic mistake last night — I did not plan my evening around the premiere of a TV movie about sharks who get swept up in a tornado. Alas, a friend had free Dodgers tickets, so it wasn’t until I got home at 11:30 pm PT that I was able to sit down and watch SyFy’s “Sharknado” via my DVR.

Unfortunately, by then “Sharknado” as a cultural event was already over — the Twitter frenzy had subsided, and every good joke to be told had already been tweeted by someone else. I watched for about an hour or so, but eventually turned it off to watch another episode of “Orange Is the New Black.”

What “Sharknado” brought into relief, though, was an issue for the web video world that’s becoming increasingly prominent: How might digitally-distributed content — especially narrative content — have a zeitgeist moment like that?

While official ratings are not available yet, “Sharknado” was the definition of a live event thanks to those commenting on Twitter: #Sharknado was a national trending topic last night, putting it on par with events like the Oscars or the Super Bowl. Heck, even though more than half of American households now have DVRs, people were even watching commercials:

The vast majority of web video out there is superior to “Sharknado” (at the very least, I’m sure Freddie Wong could animate a much more convincing CGI shark) but it’s the very rare piece of content that manages to penetrate the cultural imagination on this level. What are some key lessons to take away from last night?

Have a clear brand, right from the get-go

“Sharknado” hardly came out of nowhere: Ridiculous monster movies featuring C-list celebs have been a SyFy tradition since its Sci-Fi Channel days.

It wasn’t until Deborah Gibson’s 2009 star turn in “Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus” that the genre really broke out into the mainstream, but when you hear that “Sharknado” is airing on SyFy tonight, you have a pretty good sense of what you’re getting.

Bring in the big personalities

I’m not talking about Ian Ziering and Tara Reid here — I’m talking about those who not only broadcasted their anticipation for the film, but their reactions to it. Wil Wheaton, Patton Oswald, and other Twitter elite were a huge part of driving online buzz for the film, and their excitement was key.

Make it live, or make it scarce

Whatever the ultimate strategy might be, a live element would seem to be key to it — something that creates the sense of scarcity or urgency, whether it be missing the opportunity to interact directly with the content being watched, or just the fear that you’ll miss something.

In “Sharknado”‘s case, the idea of mocking the film alongside all your favorite Twitter friends was half the fun of the experience — and one that’s difficult to recapture.

This may be where live video trumps VOD. Felix Baumgartner’s space jump brought in eight million live online viewers for Red Bull last fall (it was also broadcast on National Geographic). How many of those eight million people were watching to see if something went wrong, before editors could clean things up for VOD?

It’s either really really good, or really really bad

Truly great or truly terrible television is like (pardon the metaphor) blood in the water for Twitter users — it’s what makes programming like “Game of Thrones” or “Big Brother” into appointment TV.

Whatever it is, it has to inspire an extreme reaction — which, if you think about it, is the definition of zeitgeist.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,


aap-rocky

MTV Labs Taps Rapper A$AP Rocky as Creative Director

 
CableCross

FCC Cancels Vote on ‘Unlock the Box’ OTT Proposal

 
lights-out-shoot-blackbox-tv-collab

Collab Signs Horror Channel BlackBoxTV to Network, Partners on...

 
PewDiePie 3-2-15

PewDiePie Expands Revelmode Gaming Slate with DoubleMoose Deal

 
Industry Tickets Selling Fast!
Click above to lock in your registration for VidCon 2015!
 
storyful-marketplace

Storyful Launches Viral Video Marketplace

 
lyor-cohen-youtube-music

Pioneering Hip Hop Exec Lyor Cohen Joins YouTube as Global Head...

 
alpha-legendary-digital

Legendary Digital Reveals Alpha Subscription Service Launch...

 
time-inc-jash

Time Inc. Teams with Digital Comedy Producers Jash for Branded Content

 
Amazon Logo

Amazon Greenlights Three Comedy Pilots as Series

 
cartoon-network-app

How the Cartoon Network Combined the Best of VOD and Linear TV...

 
jukin-media-ethos

Jukin Media Goes Viral for Brands with Ethos Division Launch

 
Streamy Awards

Streamy Awards Trade In VH1 for YouTube, Again

 
zefr-alignment-report

Matching Ads to Videos Not So Simple, According to Zefr’s...

 
shomi

Plug Pulled on Canadian SVOD Service Shomi

 
Twitter

What’s Trending on the Twitter Sale

 
Machinima Logo

Machinima Teams with SiriusXM for Daily Esports Radio Show

 
Hearst

AwesomenessTV, Vice, Complex to Power New HearstLive...

 
dirty-30-hannah-hart-mamrie-hart-grace-helbig

VIDEO: ‘Dirty 30’ Confessions with Stars Hart,...

 
facebook-thumbs-down

Facebook Says It’s Sorry It Vastly Overestimated Video...

 
craig-piligian-pilgrim-media-group

Pilgrim Media Group CEO Craig Piligian (‘The...

 
youtube-heroes-for-change

Heroes or Rats?: YouTube Unveils New Program for Creators Who...

 
Vessel says it's doing well in its first month

Why Verizon is Pursuing Vessel, the...

 
jared-feldman-and-sam-hui-ph-d-at-the-2014-canvs-launch

How Canvs Media is Harvesting Emotional Insights on YouTube,...

 
marlon-wayans

Marlon Wayans Getting ‘Naked’ for Netflix with Regina Hall

 
huffpost-ryot-aol

HuffPost RYOT Launching Virtual Reality Comedy Series and News...

 
youtube-vote-irl

YouTube Launches #voteIRL Campaign Targeting Digital-First Generation

 
tyler-oakley-camp17

How Top YouTubers (incl. Tyler Oakley & Meghan Rienks)...

 
charlie-sheen-anger-management

Charlie Sheen to Star in Crackle Feature ‘Mad Families’

 
filmbuff_videoink_300x250

Gunpowder & Sky Buys Distributor FilmBuff As Vision for...

 
toy-freaks-youtube

Toy Freaks Top Viewed YouTube Channel in August According to...

 
jeffrey-tambor-transparent-amazon

Emmy Wrap-Up 2016: Jeffrey Tambor (‘Transparent’)...

 
Twitter

Twitter Scores 2.1 Million Viewers for Thursday Night Footall Kickoff

 
youtube-sad-face-error

Vloggers Not Unique Snowflakes: 90 Million Flag YouTube Videos...

 
Mode Media

‘Billion Dollar Startup’ Mode Media Shuts Down

 
raised-firsts-branded-tv

Who Is Winning The Marketing Revolution And Why?

 
shes-gotta-have-it

Netflix Orders ‘She’s Gotta Have It’ Series...

 
swedish-dicks-peter-stormare-keanue-reeves-viaplay

What Is ‘Swedish Dicks’ and Who Is Selling It?

 
seamlessly-she-monica-potter-aol-partner-studio-gmc-acadia

How GMC is Using the AOL Series ‘Seamlessly She’...

 
Netflix_new

Liberty Global to Put Netflix on Set-Top Boxes in 30 Countries

 
vincent-cacace-vertebrae

Getting to the Spine of VR’s Monetization Challenges with...