Up, Periscope: TVO advances digital transformation via Twitter video platform

TV Ontario (TVO)’s The Agenda is broadcasting on a new channel.

As part of the publicly-funded education station’s digital transformation, its flagship current affairs program is now available on Twitter, via Periscope, at the same time it airs on television.

TVO’s choice of Twitter was serendipitous in many ways, said John Ferri, TVO’s VP of current affairs and documentaries. The channel had people attending the Online News Association Conference in the fall, as did Twitter. “They were moving in that direction and thought we would be a good partner,” he said. “We thought the alignment was great because Twitter is a platform that resonates with our existing audience and the audience we’d like to reach.”

That includes the entire journalist community, said Ferri, who are engaged in topics The Agenda likes to feature. “We though it was an appropriate platform for us,” he says.

The Agenda unveiled a new web site a year ago, and changed its focus dramatically, he said. “Until then it was a traditional broadcaster web site. It had a fairly small journalistic component. We took that model and flipped it around.”

Since joining TVO two and a half years ago, Ferri’s mandate was to shift the focus to digital and do it in a fashion that respects the legacy audience.

The Agenda relaunched in January 2016 with a new set and fresh approach to producing the show that lends itself better to the digital era, said Ferri. It has been live-to-tape for some time, but now it shoots more magazine style, he said, with two or three shorter, discrete segments. “The idea was this was easier to share on social media.”

Ferri said as public media, it’s not in a position that it needs to monetize social media. “A Facebook share is a measure of success for us.” He said TVO is not ruling out the social media behemoth as a platform for doing what it’s doing with Periscope, but for now it’s exploring its relationship with Twitter first.

More broadly, TVO is working at how the different journalistic pieces fit together to create something larger than the sum of its parts, said Ferri. That includes taking advantage of the short content it already creates to fill the gaps between its own programming, such as its climate watch short videos, and commission others, which can be used online as well. “We’re trying to explore ways we can leverage long-form journalism and work that into what we do on the show and on the web.”

TVO is not the first Canadian TV network to broadcast via a social media platform; CBC, for example, has been pushing out content via Facebook. However, TVO is the first media organization to offer a nightly Periscope broadcast, said Jennifer Hollett, head of news at Twitter Canada. “This partnership makes a lot of sense. Steve Paikin is a very connected journalist. He tweets back and forth with viewers of The Agenda,” she said. “We know that news is a big art of the conversation on Twitter and that’s what brings The Agenda to life.”

At its core, Twitter is what’s happening in the world, Hollett said, and while the 140-character tweet isn’t going anywhere, video and the range of features in Periscope reflects the growing volume of dynamic content. Using Periscope provides TVO with an innovative way to grow its audience. “It reflects the direction TVO and other broadcasters are headed.”

In the meantime, Ferri said TVO has embraced its digital transformation since he joined. “This place was ready for change. I was able to leverage that desire and move very quickly.”

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Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson is a Toronto-based freelance writer who has written thousands of words for print and pixel in publications across North America. His areas of interest and expertise include software, enterprise and networking technology, memory systems, green energy, sustainable transportation, and research and education. His articles have been published by EE Times, SolarEnergy.Net, Network Computing, InformationWeek, Computing Canada, Computer Dealer News, Toronto Business Times and the Ottawa Citizen, among others.

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