Audience Engagement: A Trend To Watch…Literally.

Audience Engagement: A Trend To Watch…Literally.

While 2018 may only be in its infancy, we have already seen some amazing productions take place. The first few months of this year have played host to some of the largest global events in the industry. One trend we here at Decibel Management are seeing consistently is how planners have up’d the game for audience engagement, but not just for those in attendance, but rather those viewing at home.

The Super Bowl:

Polls show that 92% of Super Bowl views can’t even name the two teams playing in the game (not a real stat). But let’s face it, most of us just watch for the commercials and to have an excuse to gorge yourself on various batter & sauce covered foods. That’s why the people behind the Super Bowl are always looking for ways to have viewers turn the sound back up on their TV once the commercials are over. This past year marked Super Bowl LII (that’s 52 for those of us who forgot our Freshman year Western Civ lectures) and the producers brought in a big hitter for the halftime show. None other than JT himself, Justin Timberlake. While many viewers may have watched the half-time show in hopes of another “wardrobe malfunction”, unfortunately, Janet Jackson’s invite was lost in the mail. However, the production teams came up other tactics to make viewers feel like they were right there in the mix. Much of the halftime show was shot at ground level in single shot format, the camera moving around the field with Timberlake, resulting in a viewing experience designed to make you feel like you were in the stadium walking alongside. The icing on the cake came towards the end of the performance when Timberlake entered the stadium’s seating area to dance and sing with those in attendance, thus helping to further remove the wall between performer and audience. We even got a new meme out of it! #selfiekid

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The 2018 Winter Olympics In Pyeongchang:

The Olympics are notoriously difficult for producers. Whether it’s the time differences (this year saw a nearly 12-hour gap for the US East Coast and Pyeongchang) or viewers lack of interest in hurling a rock down an ice rink and sweeping it along. There are many hurdles to overcome when coming up with strategies for this event. NBC had an interesting tactic for this year’s games… Quantity. NBC live-streamed a record-breaking 1,800+ hours of coverage, including every single event, over 100 medal events and 24/7 news and highlights, almost doubling their coverage from the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Viewers had more access and viewing options to this global event than ever before, making the Olympics feel more accessible and approachable. So sorry to all the chumps who bought round-trip flights to South Korea, chances are the fans at home got way more Olympic intake than those in attendance. Which is great news if you love shooting guns while cross-country skiing.


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The Academy Awards:

The Oscars have seen declining viewership in recent years. The 2018 Academy Awards saw the lowest ratings ever. Yep. EVER. It was the least watched Oscars broadcast since their inception, down a whopping 19% from just last year. I mean, who doesn’t love a four hour ceremony of celebrities thanking themselves. However, while viewership may be down amongst this event that many people see as being out of touch or unrelatable, it’s not for lack of trying. This year’s awards included a segment where host Jimmy Kimmel surprised a theatre full of unsuspecting movie-goers with a who’s who of celebrities handing out snacks and talking with the audience. You see, THEY’RE JUST LIKE US! The Oscars team also attempted to poke fun at themselves a bit, by having a jet-ski giveaway for the recipient with the shortest acceptance speech. While elements like these work to remove the barrier between Hollywood and the audience, it’s clear the Academy Award producers face an uphill battle if they want to get back to where the ratings used to be. Our vote: host the next ceremony at the Super Bowl halftime. It’ll be a win-win.

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With all this emphasis on audience engagement for those not in attendance, we are interested to see how this could have an effect on live event production moving forward. New tech and production techniques are making it easier and more cost effective to have offsite “attendees.” As an event management team, we believe there is no substitute for in-person impressions, but this is definitely a trend we’ll be tracking and embracing.



David Sonntag
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