VH1 is entering uncharted territory by treating its new scripted series as a reality show — at least when it comes to social media.
The network is launching a number of websites over various social media platforms on Monday, the same day that "Hit the Floor" will premiere. The transmedia strategy will see writers and producers of the series operating character-owned Facebook and Twitter pages throughout the week in an effort to drive conversation similar to VH1's popular reality television stars.
"What we'd really love to do here is take that social fervor and bring it to a scripted show…It's really kind of a cross-disciplinary kind of effort that we're super-excited about," senior vice president of connected content Dan Sacher told TheWrap. "We're testing the boundaries of the TV experience, we're really trying to make it a seven-days-a-week extended storyline."
The series, which premieres Monday night at 9 p.m. ET, is a scripted show about a fictional basketball dance squad, the Devil Girls, famous in its own fabricated world. The Devil Girls, who dance for (and occasionally sleep with) the professional Los Angeles Devils men's basketball team, are kind of like the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders with (more) attitude.
But VH1's social media strategy for "Hit the Floor," just its second scripted series effort, is the real star on the helmet — or if it fails, the real Tony Romo. VH1's first stab at scripted television came in the form of 2011's "Single Ladies," which is slated to return this winter.
The network envisions "Hit the Floor" playing out beyond its Monday night timeslot through a unique social media experience. VH1 hopes to capitalize on the show's target audience — 25-year-old women — the group that does more online than any other demographic on the web.
To foster an interactive, always plugged-in world, the show team created Facebook pages, Twitter handles and even a Tumblr gossip page for the Devil Girls and its individual team members. On these platforms, writers and producers will post photos, statuses, comments, gossip and tweets throughout the week as the show's characters — just like VH1's reality stars do. The actors themselves are encouraged to take "selfies" behind-the-scenes that can be written into the context of the faux universe.
"I think the reason that this is so conducive or so appropriate for this kind of extension is that all of these people would be on social media in a big way, if they were real," vice president of connected content Jon Mallow said.
Young and social media-savvy, the cast is encouraged to share the online presence of their characters. The transmedia experience is intended to overlap, add substance, advance the story and even be discussed within the context of the show itself. VH1 calls the strategy "storytelling without borders." The network believes it has found the right story and characters to pioneer this marketing concept around.
VH1's transmedia goal is to give audience members the same "24/7" connection that they ordinarily have with reality television stars. One of the key components to VH1's overall social strategy is to have talent play an active role across social during the show premieres and between episodes to continue to drive the conversation. Creating a "meaningful content experience" looks to not break down the fourth wall, but reinforce it via a Facebook Wall.
"The idea here is that we're creating an experience that can really be rewarding for both a casual fan and a super fan," Mallow said. "So if you're a casual fan and you really like the main character, Jelena Howard, you might 'Like' something she posted on Facebook…or look at a picture of her. But if you're a super fan, you might realize that a secondary character had commented on one of the pictures, go look at that character's media and kind of go deeper into the world. But it works for both levels of fans."
VH1 has done well promoting the social media side of its reality stars. According to the network, "Love and Hip Hop Atlanta" has been one of the top social series or programs on all of TV every episode thus far this season. It also happens to be the lead-in for the Memorial Day series premiere of "Hit the Floor." That is not a coincidence. "Love and Hip Hop Atlanta's" engagement (tweets per unique visitors) is on par with events like the Emmys and Oscars, said the network. The show's record for this season has reached 17,000 tweets per minute.
VH1 as a whole has 14 million followers across social media (including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram). La La Anthony, star of "La La's Full Court Life," has 2.6 million fans on Twitter.
While "Hit the Floor" will be dance-heavy and energetic, the drama will come from the locker room. It will also be displayed on the Locker Room. We'll explain.
The "Locker Room" is a custom section of the show website that will work as an aggregator for all character-related social activity. It has a spoiler filter so users can stay up to date — but no further — on their own schedule. In that capacity it will serve as both a viewer starter site and one for playing catch-up.
"Hit the Floor" will tip-off Monday night with team tryouts, pinning rookie dancers against veterans, all competing for floor position and attention from the male athletes. Presumably the fake team's made up leader, Coach Davenport — played by Dean Cain — hopes to have firmer tenure in L.A. than the Clippers real now-former coach Vinny Del Negro — who was just straight up played by owner Donald Sterling.
VH1 is rooting for the same. The network hopes to blur the boundaries between reality and scripted.
"Our users know how to interact with people on these platforms," added Mallow. "We're not trying to create a behavior here that doesn’t exist. We're really speaking to a behavior that exists in huge volumes with our audience already."