The days of successful celebrities and entertainers having a clear wall of inaccessibility separating themselves from their fans is over. Today, those who are smart are looking for ways to more directly and intimately interact with their fans to build engagement and loyalty.
Spreecast, a multi-person video chat platform that specializes in public broadcast and audience experience, has been at the center of this trend for the last year and today announced a partnership with two leading Viacom brands. The company, co-founded by StubHub co-founder Jeff Fluhr, has begun working with VH1 Digital and sister site Logo Digital to connect on-air talent with fans.
‘[VH1 and Logo] really understand how to bring quality entertainment experiences to viewers in fresh and engaging ways,” says Fluhr. “Working with networks of this caliber certainly reinforces our belief that interactivity and social media are increasingly important in traditional media.”
Several shows have already used the technology, including VH1’s “Love & Hip Hop Atlanta Face-to-Face Aftershow”, Logo’s “NewNowNext Vote Sound Off With Sandra Bernhard”, and new digital series “Very VH1 with Kate Spencer”. Logo’s upcoming season of “RuPaul’s All Stars Drag Race”, which premiers October 22, will feature a weekly “Elimination Lunch” via Spreecast each Tuesday during the season.
Attendees of these and other Spreecasts have the opportunity to interact directly with the celebrity participants either through text-based chat or through being invited on-air by producers. Up to four people can video chat simultaneously, while the embeddable player allows tens of thousands of others around the world watch, submit questions, chat, and share the stream across social networks. The player also includes customizable a Twitter stream and allows for native Facebook Comments and Likes. All broadcasts can be recorded and embedded online for playback and sharing at the option of the creators.
“We’re continuously looking for new and innovative ways to connect our fans directly with each other, our talent and the stars they love,” says VH1 and Logo Digital SVP Dan Sacher. The executive considers the networks “two of the most social brands” around, and views this partnership as an ideal tool for fan engagement and storytelling.
The difference between Spreecast and many other video chat platforms is that, although relative easy to use, it is designed for professional events and includes a full producer and moderator control panel. Launched in November 2011, the startup currently offers its streaming services for free, although it’s likely that will change in the future as the company offers more premium features and even monetization tools for its talent partners.
Spreecast has been compared most closely to Google Hangouts, although its independent status and ability to play nicely with Facebook and Twitter are key differentiators. Other video platforms targeting the celebrity and event broadcast space include StageIt, Ustream, and Shindig, but none offer the level of interaction and producer control of Spreecast.
The platform has caught on with a number of other celebrities outside of Viacom, both organically and through Spreecast promotion, including Britney Spears, Anderson Cooper, Elizabeth Banks, Huffington Post’s Politico, and others.
The company raised a total of $11 million to date, including a $7 million series A round in September from Meakem Becker Venture Capital, GGV Capital, MentorTech Ventures, and Stan Shuman, with participation from seed stage backers Gordon Crawford, Sandy Robertson, and Edward W. Scott, Jr. Notably, its seed round included former Viacom CEO Frank Biondi.
The world has changed in the last few years or so, with celebrities going from being completely inaccessible to the average fran, to the most successful now directly and personally engaging with millions daily. Spreecast is the latest in an arsenal of tools to make this possible. Given the company’s early success and the roster of partners it’s put together, it would appear to have the pole position in the race to secure the celebrity video chat market.