American Idol – Telescope Handles Voting Pipeline

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American Idol – What’s Behind the Envelope?

(Los Angeles, May 17, 2013) By popular vote, South Carolina’s charismatic soul singer, Candace Glover, was announced as the 2013 American Idol in front of 7,000 fans in the theater and millions more watching on remote screens. While the singers were belting it out all season, Telescope was holding the reigns in the texting wars, herding hundreds of millions of votes from all across America via their HTML 5 pipeline, until the moment when founder Edward Boddington walked on stage to announce to the world, “I’m delighted once again to confirm that Telescope has counted and verified the vote for this 12th season of American Idol and the result is in this envelope!”

The company has processed over 1.5 billion interactions in the last year and says that 75% of those are coming from mobile devices. I was curious about how this all works behind the scenes. In this exclusive interview with Jason George, CEO of Telescope, conducted at NAB this year, he talks about how the company manages billions of texts for their clients, including the ever-popular, American Idol.
Audio Interview and transcript here.

Jason said, “We’ve been working on shows like American Idol for the past 12 years, since the very start of it, managing things like their voting and on air engagement. We’ve seen that migration happen from people calling in, to people texting in, to now more and more people going through a huge range of digital platforms, or accessing through Facebook or Twitter, and we are now starting to really see the next range of that.”

Times have changed and his view of how technology is driving viewership, advertising and social media gives us insight into what is trending. Jason says that broadcast television is no longer king, “people still talk about television as the first screen and I’m not sure if that is really true anymore…especially among younger demographics, clearly technology has been such a big disrupter, they are not watching on the big screen. They are actually watching more likely on their phone or on their tablet and that is going to certainly progress further. Online video in general, but especially mobile video are really going to explode and things like TV Everywhere will be hugely important for the broadcasters and the networks as they seek to reach people in a number of different ways.”

Referencing the difficulties in today’s technologically diverse marketplace, he said, “How do I knit people together across a number of different platforms. How do I know who they are so I can try and personalize an experience for them…If I know something about them, how can I create advertising that is more relevant for them, that is likely to be more effective as well, so that is the big thing. That is going to proliferate to the point where a broadcast network is probably defined at the moment as the local stations that it is broadcast on. In five years time, there may be no need at all for those local stations because they are actually reaching people in a number of different ways and on a number of different devices.”

Engaging audiences, creating “sticky” content and ways of allowing the social participants to communicate is the key to success in any campaign. According to Jason, “we actually harness the conversations that are already out there, so for instance, we have access to the Twitter firehose. We can pull in, filter and curate comments from anybody and quickly give our clients real time access to that information and allow them to pull out comments from somebody who has got a lot of followers, for instance, because they want to use their influence, or just content they find particularly relevant to the showing on their first device.”

Just as importantly, how does Telescope display the results on dozens of devices, “people are watching on and consuming content and interacting on an iPad, a Kindle, a Smart Phone, a feature phone. What are the kinds of ways I can reach all those people, so, the primary way we use is through HTML5. That is obviously a language that allows people to create one set of content that can very quickly and easily and cheaply formatted for a huge range of different applications… it gives the universal coverage of an entire kind of mobile universe.”

The challenge, he says, continues to be how to gather, understand, manage and monetize metrics. Nielsen may eventually help more with that and, as a result, deeper audience relationships, much more important than gathering simple phone numbers, may result.

Telescope is British company that began managing on air interactivity in the UK for several clients, one of which was Pop Idol, the forerunner to American Idol in the United States. Jason say, “We were very lucky the show was a huge hit.” Since their arrival on the U.S. scene 12 years ago, Telescope has provided the voting back-end technology for such shows as The Voice, The X Factor, America’s Got Talent, Univision, several cable reality shows and special events such as the NBA Slam Dunk driven by Sprite. Their Txt2Share© platform allows users to easily share their interactions (votes, polls, news alerts, game scores, etc) with their wider social networks via mobile.

Jason George is the CEO of Telescope.

For more information on Telescope, go to

You can hear the entire interview and read the full transcript at