Appointed president of the ABC Owned Television Stations Group in December 2017, Wendy McMahon has overseen the group’s adoption of data-driven, mobile-first video strategies that have driven historical growth and market leadership in on-platform video metrics, social reach, and engagement. McMahon has overall responsibility for the company’s eight local TV stations and their digital assets in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Houston, Raleigh-Durham and Fresno.
Most recently, the industry veteran oversaw the launch of “More in Common” from Localish, a digital-first media brand from ABC-Owned Television Stations Group that aims to bring out the good in America’s cities. The brand debuted its first episode of the series in July on Facebook Watch. Since then, the series has accumulated more than 5 million views and has amassed over 50K subscribers on its Facebook Watch Show page.
We caught up with McMahon to discuss Facebook Watch, IGTV, and what the company has learned from launching content on social video platforms.
VideoInk: Localish/ABC’s “More in Common” just launched last month on Facebook Watch, what were your initial thoughts after the premiere. What went well, what could have gone better, and what did you come away with that you weren’t expecting?
Wendy McMahon: We are extremely enthusiastic about the performance and reception to “More in Common.” Our first three episodes brought it in over 3.5M video videos, and the comments and feedback have been overwhelmingly positive. We knew there would be an interest in stories about people coming together during a very divided time, but we have been truly overwhelmed at the emails, comments and gratitude from the community around telling stories that can truly make a difference.
VI: After having time to process the reaction from the Facebook Community to the first two episodes of the series, what tweaks do you see coming to the show?
WM: We’re encouraged by the consistent growth since our debut episode, with significant week-over-week increases in views and watch time. The series has definitely struck a chord with viewers, so we’re looking at how we can support and grow a community around that mission to source and champion these kinds of stories. We’re just beginning to scratch the surface with the comments and Facebook Group around the show.
We’ll continue to look for stories that bring people together, like our third and most viewed episode, featuring a former KKK member and Syrian Muslim refugee who formed an unlikely and extraordinary friendship.
VI: What challenges does creating social video content bring that might not otherwise emerge in broadcast and, on the flip end, what benefits does it bring?
WM: The ABC social footprint is extremely strong. The eight stations have more than 14M followers on Facebook alone, making us the most followed TV stations in the country, and #1 in our markets against competitors. We’ve been a leader in this space for years so creating successful social content is not new to us. This is just an extension of that and we will continue to leverage our past successes to drive future growth.
VI: What are your thoughts on launching the series — or other content from Localish — on InstagramTV, which right now doesn’t offer much opportunity fo monetization? Is creating awareness and fostering engagement enough or is monetization a must when launching on a social platform?
WM: Growing audience and revenue remain our top priorities. However, when launching a new series, brand awareness, engagement and experimentation on emerging platforms are critical. We’re keeping a close eye on InstagramTV, and as we continue to evolve the brand, we’ll determine whether that’s a platform we want to pursue.
VI: ABC seems to be in a moment of transition from being a top dog in the broadcast space to creating a presence for itself in the digital world. What excites you most about this time of change?
WM: Quite frankly, everything about this time of change excites us. It gives us new opportunities to connect with our audience — both existing and new — to create different types of programming across emerging platforms. Storytelling is the core of what we do, and this opens up new ways to create modern formats and pursue new distribution opportunities.