On the eve of what promises to be one of the more social TV events of the spring, Comedy Central is ensuring that its most snackable content is also eminently shareable.
In an effort to make Monday night's "Comedy Central Roast of Justin Bieber" go more viral than the "Outbreak" monkey, the network is teaming up with Whipclip, a new app that allows viewers to create and share video clips from their favorite shows. It's all on the up and up; Whipclip users can clip and disseminate customized snippets from the Bieber roast without resorting to shooting shaky iPhone footage of their TV screens or other bootleg captures.
In the interest of preserving the structural integrity of the two-hour telecast, Comedy Central has put a 30-second cap on each clip. Upon selecting a favorite sliver of the roast, users may immediately post their clip to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr.
The iOS-based app also allows for instantaneous transmission via text. (A Whipclip executive on Wednesday demonstrated the immediacy of the sharing functionality to by texting Ad Age a three-second bite from an episode of "Charlie Rose" mere moments after it had aired live on PBS.)
"The roast has a long history of innovating in the social-media space, and we love that this app will let fans pick their favorite moments from the night and share them with their friends in real time," said Walter Levitt, chief marketing officer, Comedy Central. "This is already one of the most social moments of 2015 and we expect Monday night will be just crazy."
Since Bieber's participation in the stylized comic beat-down was first announced in January, the upcoming roast has generated nearly 4 billion social-media impressions. Little wonder. If 163 million Beliebers can't be wrong (that's the aggregate total of his Twitter, Facebook and Instagram followers), it also seems as if an equal number of people would just as soon see the bratty pop star get roasted in the most literal manner possible. (Picture a rotisserie spit and a roaring wood fire.)
For all that, Bieber has been nothing if not cooperative, agreeing to be pelted with raw eggs for the first official Comedy Central promo and, perhaps more importantly, using his social-media clout to get fans fired up for Monday night's telecast. As part of a side deal with Whipclip, the singer will post a representative snippet of his roast appearance on his various digital extensions.
Along with Comedy Central, Whipclip has agreements in place with three of the Big Four broadcast networks (ABC, CBS and FOX), as well as cable outlets like A&E, Lifetime, OWN and truTV. Comedy Central sibling VH1 is also licensing the use of its programming to WhipClip. Live TV streams to app users, who can then capture whatever clip they want to share.
If Whipclip catches on, it could help TV networks find an audience that is all but impervious to traditional on-air promos. There's also an algorithm in the mix that will identify viewer preferences based on past captures, which in turn could serve as a precursor to a targeted ad-delivery wrinkle.
"One we start to learn what you like … instead of a promoted tweet you'll get a promoted Whip -- a really cool 30-second spot that's relevant to your demonstrated preferences," said Whipclip Chairman-CEO Rich Rosenblatt. "That's something you can expect to see after we start generating traffic."
As one might imagine, Comedy Central also has activations planned for Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram. "There are so many social platforms to take advantage of," said Steve Grimes, the network's senior VP of multiplatform strategy and development. "Luckily we're working with one of the most popular people on social media. We're hoping for a massive, massive reaction."
A blanket promotional assault across online outlets such as TMZ.com, HuffPo and the Perez Hilton site should do the rest of the heavy lifting. "We tried to make the roast completely unavoidable," Mr. Levitt said. "By 10 o'clock Monday night, we expect most of the country will know that this is happening and be intrigued by it."
While Comedy Central did not disclose its ratings guarantees for the roast, it should surpass the most recent event with little difficulty. Per Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, the Sept. 2, 2013 roast of James Franco drew 3.11 million viewers and a 1.9 rating in the 18-49 demo, where a ratings point is 1% of TV households, or about half the deliveries notched by the series' biggest performer. The Sept. 19, 2011 roast of Charlie "Tiger Blood" Sheen scared up 6.43 million viewers and a 3.8 rating in the dollar demo.