Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: In the days before Facebook and Twitter, back in the dark times of 2007, TV networks had the brilliant idea that they were going to get into the platform business. As we discussed last week, there was a period of time where networks, including Viacom, created their own platforms to facilitate fan engagement. Jacob Shwirtz was involved in several of those teams. He would later become the public face of all things Viacom and Social TV for a period before leaving the network in 2013. TVRev discussed his tenure and his thoughts about networks moving away from owned platforms to utilizing marketplace winners.
When Jacob started at MTV, he was part of a team that had the envious position of controlling all creative digital executions, beginning the moment the show was green-lit. At the time, Facebook had just opened itself to people who didn’t have .edu addresses, Twitter was just coming into being, and Snapchat’s founders were studying for their bar mitzvahs. The big player at the time was MySpace, which Viacom famously failed to acquire in 2005 when NewsCorp outbid them. So when they failed to get the real thing, they built their own.
This included sites like IAmOnMTV, which served as a destination for fans to interact directly with MTV on-air personalities. “It was basically a social network for the cast of MTV shows with things that were similar to verified Twitter profiles. Fans could interact with them and you knew it was really the talent with contests and other programs to drive UGC.” The problem here was that other than interacting with the talent, there wasn’t much for fans to do. This is the same issue that would play itself out all over again during the Social TV app days when networks and shows created their own apps for shows, which were downloaded then deleted once users realized there wasn’t any other reason for them aside from occasional interactions with show-related content.
Shwirtz recalled that along with traditional executions for shows, there were also less traditional, but possibly more entertaining, ones like the dating service NextOrNot. Built to support MTV’s “Next,” along with partner Asael Kahana (now in Product Innovation at Playbuzz), Shwirtz fondly recalls this execution as “a career achievement of mine.” Built from scratch and grown to an elaborate size, the destination remarkably resulted in relationships, marriages, modeling resumes, boasts of being named a “Hottie Of The Day,” and this glorious Merry Christmas wish from Katy Perry
During his second chapter at Viacom, starting in September of 2010, Shwirtz wound up on the team that was tasked with Flux integrations at the moment utilizing existing platforms, like Twitter or Facebook, became the norm. His mission became more of figuring out how to best adapt Viacom to SocialTV strategies and he was the direct liaison between the networks and various startups and apps at the time.
For Shwirtz, adapting Flux and Viacom to meet the new demands of SocialTV was one distinct chapter, which ended when he left Viacom at the start of 2013.
Where he went next and his feelings on the new relationships between talent and platforms and how to tell stories is a conversation for another piece, coming soon. Until then, you can follow him at @Shwirtz