Interview: Nicoletta Iacobacci, Head Of Interactive, Eurovision: Obama Inspired Norway’s Fairytale

imageimageSaturday’s Eurovision Song Contest was the most interactive yet, fueled by a social media strategy lifted right out of Barack Obama’s campaign playbook. Web page views between January 1 and May 19 hit 70.1 million from last year’s nine million, and video views grew from 12 million to 31.9 million, Switzerland-based European Broadcasting Union (EBU) interactive TV head Nicoletta Iacobacci revealed to paidContent:UK. The uptick is “not just impressive, it’s scary“, Iacobacci joked, as she gave us the online lo-down from this year’s competition in Moscow – next year, Obama’s learnings will be joined by TV widgets and more mobile…

Having noticed real-time Twitter discussion build around last year’s Belgrade contest, this time Iacobacci embraced the microblog service, feeding “#eurovision” tweets beside the online videocast. “This time, we were trying to do something similar to what Obama did in the election with Facebook, but we actually did it with Twitter.” The resulting social media engagement was “pretty strong”, Iacobacci said, proving to be YouTube’s biggest hit the morning after and building 40,000 Facebook followers.

Solicited on-screen, #eurovision messages topped out Twitter’s trend list during the event, making for a simultaneous and continent-wide shared viewing experience – but wasn’t feeding in the world’s thoughts risky? “With new technology, sometimes you have to push it and take a little risk,” said the former RAI producer and interactive director, who used a 12-strong team in Moscow. “We were very aware of the risk – we had a fantastic team of dedicated staff who work with us when the Eurovision was on to moderate it – if there was something major, we would take action.”

Bypassing TV to find audience: In video, Iaccobacci remedied her native Italy’s 12-year-long Eurovision boycott by striking a one-of-a-kind, non-TV syndication deal: “We allowed La Reppublica, the most popular online paper, to embed our live streaming in their blog. Italy is the only country not taking party in the Eurovision Song Contest – being an Italian, it’s my responsibility to convince RAI to bring it back. It’s one of the biggest entertainment shows in the world – it’s really a pity Italy doesn’t participate.”

Features around the continent: itself was most popular in Holland, Belgium, Estonia and Cyprus, with eastern Europe lagging behind on web hits. On red-button interactive, the BBC scrolled multi-lingual lyrics in a ticker – but Iacobacci said this was only possible in the UK, where iTV uses a different standard. Iacobacci: “The Eurovision Song Contest is a fantastic platform to try out new technologies and new applications. Why? Because the fans and the community is already there and very strong and very cohesive. We had some minor glitches as usual – we had a little glitch in the middle of the streaming where we got a satellite stream from a partner’s local feed, not the international stream. If you try something new, you have to foresee minor glitches – but we didn’t have big problems.”

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