Celebrating the TV soap opera’s 30th anniversary, EastEnders ‘Live Week’ drew in UK viewer figures of +10 million and created mass audience engagement with social media. Having finished, the event has been described by commentators as a game changer UK TV and Entertainment.
Team SBC discussed EastEnders ‘live week’ with Paul Reilly Managing Director of marketing and SEO insights company Media Skunk Works, in order to review the TV event and asses its impact on the UK betting industry.
SBC: Hi Paul, your team at Media Skunk Works has picked up some interesting data and insights with regards to EastEnders’ Lucy Beale storyline, can you breakdown your findings for SBC Readers?
Paul: Yes, we’ve been working on a celebrity and reality TV betting project, FlashBitch.com for a year or so. One of our first forays into being an affiliate in the UK. Flashbitch.com, a Coral UK partner, focuses purely on celebrity, reality and novelty betting markets. The EastEnders market has been of special interest. Coral previously predicted the market would be worth £10m but based on the hype surrounding the whodunit, along with their beautifully executed PR & social media strategy, I felt the market would exceed expectations and it did.
Coral’s Nicola McGeady confirmed that: “Coral took more bets on the Lucy Beale murder than match betting on Chelsea v Man City, the biggest game of the season so far.” The most amazing statistic being: “…more people bet on Lucy Beale than who bet on the World Cup final match”.
SBC: In your opinion what has made this Live TV event so much more special/appealing to the general public than a regular novelty betting market?
Paul: The success of this market could (to some degree) be anticipated based on the size of their viewership, just looking at the number of Facebook likes that the official EastEnders page has, served as a reminder that this was going to be a big deal. It was Tuesday morning, when I saw in my newsfeed, the downloadable Facebook (852 x 315) cover image showing the list of suspects along with the arrow pointing to the fans profile picture with: “I know who killed Lucy”. Then when I read about the #EELive twitter coverage which landed in my inbox having being picked up by Flashbitch, this involved Tamwar Masood (played by Himesh Patel) tweeting during the live segments of the shows leading up to the big reveal. This was the moment I realised that they’d nailed it. BBC TV had clearly done their social media planning and the execution was flawless throughout the week.
The scale of the viewing indicates BBC TV’s success with EastEnders Live week commencing with just over 9 million viewers and peaking on the night of the reveal with a reported 12 million viewers.
The key difference with this show than any other novelty betting market was scale and engagement along with various mainstream betting calls to action. BBC NewsBeat published: How To Throw A “Who Killed Lucy Beale” Party. In that article they encourage the viewers to have a sweepstake but supported the point with a picture of a bookmakers retail outlet. On the Monday of EastEnders live week, Graham Norton asked the key cast members: “Who killed Lucy Beale?” and Danny Dyer, joking claimed he knew who did it and had placed a £500 bet on it, probably the biggest surprise was when the credits rolled at the end of the first show of live week, when the voice over lady asked the 9 million viewers; “Who’s your money on?”.
While these comments may appear to be subtle and could be largely overlooked, they are in fact unprecedented and also were done at a scale never previously possible, exposing millions to the novelty betting opportunity, many of whom may have never even known that such betting markets exist. It was this mainstream media, plus mass advertising of novelty betting which has introduced a significant step change to the novelty markets and will have across the industry created a massive player reactivation opportunity for future markets; the next big market being the Royal Baby market. Public awareness has been irreversibly altered by BBC TV.
SBC: You and your team are focusing on generating content, context and competencies in novelty betting markets, why is this so appealing to you as a business and as an igaming marketer?
Paul: At Media Skunk Works, we’re very careful to avoid conflicts of interest with client work and given we do not have any clients focused purely on UK celebrity, reality and novelty betting, it made sense for us to target this market. We also have future plans which fit a mainstream mass market demographic. We’re very well positioned being a supplier of acquisition services which have evolved largely out of SEO but with a fundamental difference: everything we have done as a business historically, creates a bi-product and our strategy is to mine value from the bi-product. We recycle everything we do.
One such bi-product of the past three years is our contact database of around 2.7 billion records. We’ve been working closely with Dr Suresh Manandhar, a globally renowned specialist in natural language processing and machine learning from the University of York ( http://www-users.cs.york.ac.uk/~suresh/ ). The technology we’ve built is learning from a seed of context. The starting point we chose was Wikipedia (English), which we’ve boiled down to around 10 million pages which are being used to derive context from hierarchical relationships within language. For example: a sport may have many leagues, a league may have many teams, a team may have many players. Going back to our interest in novelty betting, let’s just say it’s probably quite different from most betting affiliates’ interest. It has many facets and future dependencies which I’m unable to disclose at this time.
SBC: What can UK bookmakers learn for this event and how it has caught the public’s imagination?
Paul: The biggest educational output from EastEnders live week was probably how to run a kick ass, highly engaging social media campaign. It’s easy for a social media planner to opt for gimmicks and lose sight of what they are trying to achieve. BBC TV kept their social media strategy true to both their objectives as well as leveraging the essence of each individual social channel.
SBC: Finally…Do you think that this will be a one-off event or can betting and entertainment markets replicate this event?
Paul: I believe this event has grown the novelty betting opportunity in the UK – it’s certainly shown the UK how to execute a social media strategy. Operators and entertainment producers should have been taking notes. There’s no reason this couldn’t be replicated, but having a starting point of a consistent award-winning, 30-year-old , primetime BBC soap opera does make it quite tricky to replicate. That said, I imagine Coronation Street producers; ITV Granada, are probably best positioned to step this up a level.