The Global TV Demand Awards: Podcast with The Walking Dead series executive producer Denise Huth

Photo: Wared Seger, Pollyanna McIntosh, Josh McDermitt, Denise Huth and Courtney Williams after the “The Walking Dead” wins the 2018 Global TV Demand Award for the most in-demand TV series in the world at Fontainebleau Hotel on January 22, 2019 in Miami Beach, Florida. (Photo by John Parra/Getty Images for Parrot Analytics).​

The C21 Media podcast hosted by editor-in-chief and managing director David Jenkinson

Parrot Analytics has named The Walking Dead as the most in-demand TV series in the world for 2018 at the inaugural Global TV Demand Awards at NATPE Miami. Parrot Analytics CEO Wared Seger and series exec producer Denise Huth talk to C21 editor-in-chief and managing director David Jenkinson. This podcast can be accessed on C21Media’s website or via the play button below.

Please note: This podcast contains spoilers for The Walking Dead, proceed with caution!

Listen to this podcast now:

 

Denise Huth on Instagram

Reflecting on the Global TV Demand Awards event, Denise Huth wrote:

“The Walking Dead was named The Most In Demand TV Series in the World! Seriously, the WORLD! It was such an honor to attend #natpemiami with @pollyannamcintosh and #joshmcdermitt to accept this award on behalf of the entire #TWDfamily. Thank you to all of our incredible, passionate and loyal fans all over the world who have taken this journey with us over the past nine years. You are the best! We were also told this means we will be in the Guinness Book of World Records for 2018. Which just boggles my mind to be honest with you. Hi #bucketlist!”

Podcast Transcript

Wared Seger
Parrot Analytics was founded about six or seven years ago now from out of New Zealand. There’s a real big push from the entire population, the government really, to step up technology and media and entertainment in particular. We started with really unique technology that allowed us to see what people were doing, and how they interact with content.

So, and I mean, literally, everything from like, searching for a TV show, to watching trailers, to even pirating content, we were seeing people pirating content and where others saw that as, you know, as a no no, a big no no, let’s not talk about that, actually our view was these people are just avid fans in a lot of cases. And so, so that was sort of, then the initial inception of the company.

Of course, we’re now based in Los Angeles, our R&D team is still based in New Zealand, but we have developed a system that allows us to assess the popularity of content across all platforms all around the world. And so, you know, our mission is to essentially connect content creators with content consumers, that’s what drives us as a company, that was the initial mission, it’s connecting creators with consumers, that’s why we do this, we’re able to see all content all around the world and how it’s trending.

And that means that we can literally, you know, zoom in on a Turkish drama, and see how well that’s doing around the world. You know, and then zoom back out, and then zoom in again on a Portuguese telenovela and see how well that’s doing, you know, and so having that platform that allows us to see all content, how well it’s trending around the world, you know, a natural thing to do would be is to actually, you know, give out these awards, sort of, like the People’s Choice Awards, but on steroids, if you like, like a true global people’s festival.


David Jenkinson

So they’re called the Global TV Demand Awards, and lots of people will wonder how you get to that result, like, lots of people wonder how Netflix gets to its most popular shows through it. So an algorithm, if you were to give us a sort of a layman’s overview of where those numbers come from, and how you decide that.


Wared Seger

So what we do at Parrot Analytics is that we measure all the different types of Demand Expressions that fans make online, right? So on any given point in time, any given day, 2 billion people interact with TV content online, right, they’re searching for it, they’re talking about it, they’re critiquing it, watching it, uploading it, sharing it and what have you. And so we capture all of those, all the social platforms, blogs, you know, search engines and wiki sites.

And we combine all those signals together into one demand metric. And so that metric is supposed to answer the one question that, you know, we talked about earlier today, at the award ceremony, which is what content people really want, right? And that was what we saw to introduce through the measurement system. This is one single measure that answers a question, what content people really want around the world. And so coming back to your question now, the great thing is, we don’t decide anything.

So that’s the phenomenal thing about this, you know, unlike your traditional award ceremonies where, you know, 20 middle aged men decide what the best TV show is going to be, we don’t make any decisions, the data does, so we actually don’t know who the winners are, right? Until December 31, which is the end of the calendar year when we look at the data.


Denise Huth

I’m Denise Huth, I’m one of the executive producers of The Walking Dead. And we are here because we’ve just been given an amazing award by Parrot Analytics saying that were the most popular show in the world. It’s an incredible story; Robert Kirkman wrote a comic book that I think is very appealing to a lot of people. And we’ve expanded on that in many different ways. It’s, you know, I think in the beginning, it was just, oh, it’s that zombie show. And I think what people have realized over time, and as they watch it, it’s not about zombies. They’re obviously very important. And we’re very, very proud of them. But really, at its core, it’s a family drama.

And I think that’s how we’ve seen as Josh talked about, when we spoke today, it’s what we hear from people over and over again, this is the only show they watch as a family, which on one level is sort of shocking and horrifying but on another really goes to show that there’s something in it for everybody: A teenager and their parents can watch it, grandparents can watch it and get something else out of it. It’s, it’s such a show about humanity and what people do when they’re at their worst moment and how some will, you know, I think everybody likes to believe that at your worst moment you will be your best self.

But I think we all know from reality that that is not often the case and so we get to really engage with characters who do horrible, horrible things. But usually we get to some point in our story: We understand why something happened to them and how they made that choice. And then conversely, we get to see our heroes, you know, our heroes being relevant, a relative term on our show, but the people who do make the right choice, and the people who do stick together, these characters are facing death every single minute of every single day.

It’s such an amount of loss, it’s a just shocking amount of loss. And yet they keep going, they keep trying each and every day, and they keep fighting to stay alive. And I think a lot of times, they’re not fighting so much for themselves as they are for the people they’re with, this family that they have found along the way. And I think that is incredibly accessible to everyone on the planet. You know, we have all experienced loss but it’s inspiring to see somebody keep trying.


David Jenkinson

Is the anatomy of the show any different, because I imagine the engagement with the audience happens in a lot more places than on the TV screen as this award proves – really it’s a sort of a social currency and entertainment currency that crosses beyond the small screens to every screen. Do you engineer that into your production and how do you do it differently? Do you make conscious decisions about producing for the digital age?


Denise Huth

Fundamentally at the core, we’re telling the story, you know, I think Angela Kang our showrunner is a great fan of the comics and a phenomenal writer and she started on the show in Season Two so she came in already as a fan when she started and now she’s running the show all these years later, she definitely approaches everything with the story first no question but she’s very smart. She knows who those characters are. And the stories that are going to get the fans really, really excited. She is very smart about not only how she structures or individual episodes, but how she structures the season.

You know, we air “eight and eight”, we are eight episodes in the fall and eight episodes in the spring. We know what that mid season finale is going to be. We know what we want people talking about in those two months that we’re not on the air. She really has a very good idea of what is the next thing, you know, we had a huge challenge this year because Andrew Lincoln left the show. And we all knew this was going to happen. And I think the fact that the audience was so engaged leading up to that and is equally engaged after he has departed. I think that is a wonderful testament to Angela’s ability as a writer because she, you know, there’s a lot of people that are, our audience is so passionate, and you’ll hear everything under the sun, they get really, really mad at us. And then they’re really, really happy with us.

And I think the expectation on that was a lot of people just assumed Rick would die. And when he didn’t, they were so happy. And then moments later, you see we’ve jumped ahead six years and there’s 10 year old Judas and it’s just like, wow, you have to keep going. You have to keep following this journey. And that obviously that’s a storyline that doesn’t exist in the comics. That was something Angela and the writers came up with, and she thinks about it. She really thinks about how can we honor the source material and honor those really devout comic book fans, but also keep it interesting and compelling enough and surprising enough for the fans who don’t read the books. Or now we’re in a situation where Rick is gone, and Carl’s gone and all these these characters who still exist in the book.

So there is a fundamental idea sometimes in how how do you keep this going. And a lot of that honestly stems back to Robert, Robert Kirkman. When he first started writing the comics, he talks about how he always loved zombie movies, but they always end, and so he wanted to create the zombie movie that never ended. So obviously, people die. It happens. It happens a lot on our show. But how do you keep that story going? And I think that’s something that we’ve done a good job at constantly introducing new characters who can engage with the audience in a different way. So you don’t feel like you’re seeing the same story. And even when beloved characters like Rick depart and fly away in a helicopter, you can still be hooked in with Michelle and Darryl and Carolyn, and everybody who was still there.


David Jenkinson

What do you do around the show to make sure that it has a life beyond the TV screen?


Denise Huth

AMC spearheads so much of our social content, and they, you know, come down while we’re filming. And we film a lot of promos and commercials and different things that they can do, that they can utilize when we’re not on the air, the demand for content is massive. And so we do, we have a few things that are really set out to do. And our actors are phenomenal. You know, these actors have gone from being relatively unknown to some of the biggest, most popular actors on the planet.

You know, Norman Reedus was just a guy you know, when we started, people knew who he was because of “Boondock Saints”, but this show has changed his trajectory of the awareness of who Norman Reedus is, is insane to me. So when we first cast Andrew Lincoln, I just described him to people as he’s the guy from “Love, Actually”, who was in love with Keira Knightley you know, that’s how we can describe him because nobody knew his name and now he will be Rick Grimes for ever and ever.

You know, it has been a just a stunning turn of seeing people continually embrace the show. And despite the fact that we’re in season nine now, it keeps growing, it just keeps the engagement and the fans and people who want to see it go on forever and ever. That’s pretty rare for any TV series let alone a cable series – uh, let alone a series with a horror element.


David Jenkinson

And you gave an award also for the most in demand show in the digital world, which was Stranger Things on Netflix. Tell us a little bit about that show, why do you think it’s done so well.


Wared Seger

It was you know, it was quite a unique show in that it broke the mold for a lot of, not just Netflix’s, other digital platform’s original content, because of the relatively recent model of telling fans, “hey, you have 10 episodes now, you know, go fill your boots”. That is, was, a new thing for fans, obviously, they loved it, because, you know, they just want more of the story that they like. But it was a new thing for the industry in the way they think about monetizing content. Because historically, you’ve had the network model.

And so what it did mean though, is that these digital platforms learned and are still learning about how to monetize all at once releases versus episodic releases. Because the advantage that episodic shows have is that they sustain audience demand for 10 weeks, or 16 weeks in a year, as opposed to a you know, a digital original that releases all the episodes at once – we have 10, 12 episodes of a season. And what ends up happening is that we see, if you imagine visually, you get a spike during the first week of release. Because that’s when everyone’s binging on it, then there’s a slight decline.

And then there’s what we call a second weekend binge spike where people finish watching the season. And you’ll literally see this in the data. And you know, what’s scary, is that same chart is replicated in all markets around the world. Like people around the world watch content the same way, right. I mean, we’re all people. So you see a spike in the first week and then it declines and you see a second spike in the second weekend. And there’s a really rapid decline after that, right.

So actually, from a unit economics for a business model point of view, for these platforms, you have a shorter life cycle of audience engagement on the platform from 10 weeks, to two weeks, to two and a half weeks – three weeks if they show’s great. People, you know, engage with it over three but once you finish watching the 10 episodes you’re kind of done with that show till the next season, and that’s a challenge for digital platforms, because that means they have to keep pumping out this content to sustain their their audiences’ engagement.

Now bringing this back to Stranger Things: The reason I said it broke the mold is that show sustained its demand for 8, 9, 10 weeks after the release of the entire first season. Yes, word of mouth was absolutely massive. And we actually saw in the demand for this such a spike 3, 4, 5, 8 weeks later after it’s release of the full season. You know, we’re seeing it has started to pick up in Turkey now, and it’s starting to pick up in Brazil, you know, there are these markets that are starting to spike for the show many, many weeks after its release. And I think that’s, you know, it’s, it’s a testimony to, I think, the risk that they took making that show and obviously the way it’s made.


David Jenkinson

Denise, how are you going to keep The Walking Dead number one in the world?


Denise Huth

You know, I think it’s what we’ve done is be very true to who we are, you know, we know what, what the show is, we’ve always understood from the very beginning, why we loved it. And I think that that’s the thing you always have to go back to as storytellers if you start chasing your tail and start trying to figure out whether they like this and they didn’t like that, you kind of go down a bad rabbit hole.

And for all of us who weren’t, you know, like I said, I’ve been on the show longer, the only one who’s been here longer than me is Robert Kirkman. So it’s to be a fan and to continue to read the comic books and know where he’s taking the story, for us, it’s just still finding those new and surprising ways to surprise the audience with what these characters can do, and what they will encounter. You know, we’ve done two time jumps just this season. So we’re now 10 years into an apocalypse. And that’s a very, very different world than it was in the pilot when Rick Grimes woke up.

And that again, I think with something so smart that Angela did to sort of get us further in and change their knowledge of this world they now live in. And I think that’s always exciting for the audience. Everybody has their, you know, “this is what I would do in a zombie apocalypse”. And this is how I would live. But I think what is so compelling about the show is at a certain point in time, almost anyone still alive is very capable of killing a zombie. It’s how do they live with each other is usually their biggest downfall. So and that really isn’t that different from the world we actually live in.


David Jenkinson

We look forward to what happens next. Thanks for spending time with us. And thanks for launching these awards.

 

Parrot Analytics and NATPE hosted the first ever data-driven global TV Demand Awards on January 22 where we revealed the most popular TV series of 2018 using global TV demand data. That’s right – no judges, and no voting committees. If you like, you can download our Awards presentation.

If you have not yet seen the video of our Awards presentation, you may watch it below:

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