Operación Triunfo: Reinventing TV in the Social Media Era

Operación Triunfo, TVE's flagship program, returned in October 2017, 16 years after it first aired. The program revolutionized Spanish television at the time, with its 16 charismatic aspiring artists. Some years later, partly due to popular demand, TVE and Gestmusic (part of the Endemol Shine Group) decided to revive the format, aware that TV viewing habits had changed significantly over the last 16 years. How could they make a new success of a program that had already been a total triumph?

TVE and Gestmusic faced a major challenge: reinventing a format that audiences already knew, in the era of social television. Creating a 24-hour, live YouTube channel was the answer.

They used social networks to talk about and share content, and created more content to complement what was shown on television, giving viewers a stronger emotional connection with the contestants and the format. A key way of doing this was through the daily live broadcast on the YouTube channel and website.

"The television broadcast and its digital counterparts have been feeding into one another over several months. This synergy is largely what explains the success of the new format and the social phenomenon it has become."

- Eladio Jareño, Director of TVE

Searching for Today's Audience

The behavior of viewers—or consumers—of audiovisual content has evolved over time. The current audience is not the same as the one that enjoyed the first season of Operación Triunfo, or at least does not behave in the same way. This was one of the reasons for rethinking the way the content was broadcast.

YouTube was the right platform for generating interest among younger viewers—an audience distanced from traditional television by its content and format. Until recently, television networks did not usually broadcast their content outside of their own environments. However, TVE decided to open up its content and use platform marketing to seek out its audience where it is now to be found.

A Triumph

Operación Triunfo's arrival on YouTube through its 24-hour channel was one of the keys to this season's success. The audience could watch the singing lessons, choreography rehearsals, and morning stretching exercises as they happened. They could also have breakfast with the contestants or enjoy watching the guys cover Dani Martín, Jarabe de Palo, or C. Tangana on the guitar or piano in their free time. All this on a channel that not only allows real-time viewing but also offers snippets of the best content: perfect for sharing on social networks.

Knowing firsthand what the contestants were going to sing, how they were preparing their versions of the songs, and even how the rehearsals with the dancers went generated a lot of excitement that culminated in the live show on TVE.  

Operación Triunfo was looking to reach a young audience on its return and digital media was the way to do it.

"Thanks to the 24-hour channel, we established a daily contact point with this new audience, which grew more and more engaged with the program to the point where it became a digital and television phenomenon."

- Tinet Rubira, Director of Gestmusic

Live Content

The 24-hour live stream quickly became the central thread of the format and the program's backbone. Following life in "The Academy" as it happened became a habit for the majority of the young audience. The allocation of songs at 4 p.m. on Tuesdays drew thousands of followers to see what the contestants would perform on Monday's show. The rehearsals on Thursdays and Saturdays became a must-see for fans of the show, again drawing thousands to their computers, tablets, and cell phones. The digital team generated interest on social media using short videos and memes, and interacted with an impatient audience by answering questions and requests.

The live feed on the 24-hour YouTube channel consisted of 110 consecutive daily events from October to the final show. The growth in ratings was consolidated as the program went on.

The Triumph of Going Digital

The success of the Operación Triunfo YouTube channel is undeniable when you look at this season's figures: 43 million hours of viewing time with more than 365 million views on a channel with over 400,000 subscribers.

Much of its success is down to the adaptation of content for digital platforms, and a fast-moving digital team that understood the viewers' need for content. That's why stellar performances from the television show, such as Ana War and Aitana doing "Lo Malo" or Alfred and Amaia doing "City of Stars," each have over 6 million views on YouTube. 

But where are the ads? There were no ad breaks during the television broadcast. But the live broadcast on the 24-hour YouTube channel provided various opportunities for product placement alongside the contestants, whether in their snack breaks or while watching a movie.

The New Formula for Success

The success of the first season of Operación Triunfo was difficult to top. But TVE, Gestmusic, and YouTube were able to come up with a solution in a more connected world, reaching a young audience that interacts through technology using memes, tweets, and instant messaging. Knowing where that audience was and speaking its language was the key to overcoming the challenge of reigniting the success of 17 years earlier.

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