The night before the prestigious MTV EMAs 2015 in Milan, Viacom senior vice president Phillip O’Ferrall sat down with M&M Global to talk about how the MTV brand is using technology without letting it compromise content quality.
It’s clear that O’Ferrall is excited for the forthcoming ceremony. “The build-up has been amazing,” he says. “What excites me of course is that the audience will be involved in voting for their favourite, so that’s led to a swell of excitement on social.”
Aside from the MTV EMAs being the first sponsored live global edition with Snapchat , the live backstage Periscope stream and the Boomerang installation for Instagram, O’Ferrall says that the main innovations of the awards focusses on using “more influencers we love in different ways”.
“I think what is always inspiring, and you’ll see it during the awards show, is how we create the social media moments. I’m not going to tell you what they are!”
The EMAs will be the first global music award show to broadcast the entire event in a virtual reality live stream. MTV will broadcast the red carpet pre-show and entire main show to viewers in markets around the world which they can access directly via the MTV EMA app.
“There’s a tour of Ed Sheeran’s dressing room featuring a border terrier dog that we met, he’s got his own accreditation,” says O’Ferrall. “Virtual Reality is of course something I want to pay attention to.
“We actively got involved in 3D and I really believe in VR, if you actually experience it, it works so well in these environments. For me it’s about putting a stake in the ground and we want to keep pushing the boundaries.
“It’s early days, we’ll see how it goes during this event but it seems natural to me that a really strong immersive viewing experience is what the audience wants – the dressing room or back stage or a performance of someone you adore – it just gives an extra layer to the fan.”
In reply to Jonathan Ross’s comments that virtual reality won’t change the way content is produced last week, O’Ferrall agrees. “You’ve got to keep true to why you are doing the content – great script, great concept, great talent.
“The technology needs to come away from the consumer, you just need to give them great new tools. What will be telling is if the audience love it – if they do, we do it more, if they don’t, then you don’t change the plot.”
At the EMAs, attendees will be given a free cardboard viewer and, if they download the app, they can experience 3D and have a 360 experience.
O’Ferrall explains his strategy for promoting influencers: “We’ll take a ‘push act’ and put them in lots of venues around the country and around the world, and then, as they become bigger and bigger, we’ll keep getting behind them and behind them and ultimately they become much more mainstream, then we get to a position where they become a world stage act.
“It’s just about the talent – you’ve got to be able to spot the talent so you need human beings.”
Although it is often thought that ‘anyone can be famous’, O’Ferrall says that those who make it on to MTV shows are truly stars. “When we are looking at a character on a reality show, they’ve come from three thousand, one thousand, five hundred, one hundred, etc, whittled down – they are the people that actually are amazing, they’re not just off the street, that’s what people have to remember.”
Looking to the future, O’Ferrall says “the only constant is change”.
“You have to be constantly changing and evolving,” he adds, saying the company will focus on creating original content and more stars on more platforms.
“I think the underlying principle we’ll never change is great talent, great script, great casting – if you keep true to the original idea then you keep overlaying cultural change and new technology, you’ll do it seamlessly so it’s natural, that’s how you’ll continue to succeed.
“I don’t think we’re in the business of just working with existing, we also love to create. We’ve got such a track record of doing it, I just want to do more and more of that on more platforms.”