HomeTvTV activations take over SXSW, immersing fans in new and old favorites
TV activations take over SXSW, immersing fans in new and old favorites
March 19, 2023
Prime Video, Peacock and Showtime were among the networks enticing SXSW attendees with food, photos and more during various activations.
Not to be dramatic, but Prime Video probably saved my life for South by Southwest 2023.
The streamer was one of many to show off several immersive activations at the festival’s Film & TV conference, including a convenience store tied to Donald Glover’s “Swarm.” As I basked in the sun outside the “Swarm” convenience store, I realized it was 85 degrees Fahrenheit and I hadn’t hydrated in about five hours. When I walked into the store and saw a cooler full of drinks, I swore it was surrounded by a halo, a choir of angels singing my triumph as I grabbed and gulped down a Gatorade.
It wouldn’t be the last time a TV activation would curb my conferences that weekend. I’ve had one more than once at Prime in Texas, a block-long cityscape dedicated to major Amazon shows (with perhaps the best tastings of my entire life). Chips bought at Swarm with fake $5 bills came in handy during breaks between panels or as a late-night snack. It was hard to miss a signature cocktail (the hydration value is debatable) at Roku City or The Lodge: A Paramount+ Experience and the Peacock “Mrs. Davis” offered vouchers for free coffee, tacos and donuts (it makes sense if you watch the show).
“South by Southwest is an amazing festival. People are very open to new ideas and new experiences, and that’s part of why they come here,” Peacock SVP of Brand Marketing Jo Fox told IndieWire. The company hired actors to roam downtown Austin as nuns, leading to a Q&A: “Mrs. Davis” creators Damon Lindelof and Tara Hernandez on March 13, and the two-episode premiere on March 14.
With more TVs than ever before, activations like SXSW are a key way for networks and streamers to differentiate their projects and entice viewers with memorable visuals and experiences that are inextricably linked to big shows. Although the “swarm” and “Mrs. Davis” premiered at SXSW, both series were still embargoed during the conference, which meant activation attendees had minimal plot details from either show. At the “Daisy Jones & the Six” concert, many people were dressed in 1970s holiday attire, and I was standing in line next to someone who had not seen the show or read the book, but had driven an hour to get to the concert. People lined up not just to get into the activations at all, but to get cocktails, unique merchandise, temporary tattoos and more. These spaces exude an air of class and exclusivity, not in the sense of ostracizing anyone, but in the sense of opening the doors of TV shows and the industry to avid fans—much like SXSW itself.
“When you launch new shows, you want to get attention because there’s so much choice for consumers,” Fox said. “Now we’re doing everything we can to create interest and excitement for our new original content in this climate where a lot of shows are launching.”
Read on for SXSW TV activation highlights.
The Lodge: The Paramount+ experience
Paramount’s SXSW residency included three bars, a rooftop, temporary tattoos and more.
Inside the Lodge
The Lodge’s interiors used mountain imagery (inspired by the Paramount logo) and rustic cabin vibes.
“Rabbit Hole” at The Lodge
In the new thriller, visitors can take photos as “Rabbit Hole” star John Weir (Kiefer Sutherland).
“Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies” at The Lodge
The prequel series gave visitors to the Lodge free popcorn and the chance to ride in a classic 1950s car and don the iconic Pink Ladies coat.
The exterminator van from the new Peacock range was seen throughout the festival – but it probably won’t do much in the way of pest control.
The nuns in “Mrs. Davis’
To stir up the drama of Damon Lindelof and Tara Hernandez, Peacock unleashed nuns across Austin — all in character and “Ms. Davis was wanted”.
The nuns are making brunch
The “Mrs. Davis” nuns have popped up all over Austin, including in stores and restaurants.
Prime Video has taken over an entire block, turning it into a cityscape (and party venue) celebrating multiple shows and offering food, drink, entertainment and more.
“Daisy Jones & the Six” concert experience
On Saturday, March 11th, Prime in Texas hosted an exclusive “Daisy Jones” concert with food, drinks and unique merchandise.
Right next to Prime in Texas (and from the same family) was the “Swarm” convenience store, a convenience store based on Donald Glover’s upcoming dark comedy series.
“Who is your favorite artist?”
The “Swarm” convenience store doesn’t reveal much about this twisted series, but it was filled with Dre’s (Dominique Fishback) favorite snacks. Visitors were given a fake $5 bill to buy food and drink and a lottery ticket to win a t-shirt or hat.
Showtime’s brooding drama about teenage cannibals (and their traumatized adult selves) has taken over the Fair Market warehouse with a spooky winter vibe.
A victim of the “yellow jackets”.
Lottie’s (Courtney Eaton) altar from the Season 1 finale was in the back of the Yellowjackets’ camp, shrouded in fog and snow, revealing the heart of a bear she sacrificed to the “darkness” in the woods.
Target practice at the Yellowjackets camp
Would you survive in the wilderness? Visitors to the Yellowjackets camp could test their accuracy by throwing a rubber ax at these targets.
This activation, in partnership with Best Buy, celebrated TV. The multi-level rooms feature parlors, hotel lobbies, and this huge living room set, as well as themed areas tied to Roku Originals.
Roku City Rooftop
The top floor of the Roku activation featured a rooftop bar — decked out in purple like the rest of Roku City — with signature cocktails, snacks, music and more while patrons looked out over downtown Austin.
The HBO Max Coffee House
The aptly named pop-up offered visitors the chance to grab a cuppa, sit back and potentially enjoy panel discussions or live music performances.
Film Roundtable at HBO Coffeehouse
On March 11, Lena Waithe moderated the documentary discussion at HBO’s SXSW pop-up. On March 12, Amber Lucid performed an acoustic set.