At the beginning of 2021, we brainstormed about how we could do something special on our news platform HLN around the one-year anniversary of COVID-19 hitting Belgium. Of course, the obvious retrospective articles, interviews, and videos were of a necessity. At the same time, we felt our readers and viewers also needed something positive to read and watch.
Simultaneously we got in touch with a group of musical entrepreneurs who had a crazy idea: What if we invited all our local musicians to one stage and let them perform non-stop for 24 hours? Our society was and still is in lockdown, and by offering “safe” musical entertainment, we could make a difference for them. The idea immediately caught our attention and enthusiasm.
A virtual and interactive audience
In less than a month we built everything: the concept, the stage, the 24-hour set list, and the campaign. Everything had to be done with the strictest COVID-19 restrictions. Every artist and crew member had to undergo two COVID-19 tests before entering the music hall, and nobody else was allowed.
You could only watch 24 UUR LIVE as a livestream on HLN. A weakness became a strength: We invited our viewers to be part of the show. The most enthusiastic fans danced and sang on big screens together with the performers on stage.
When we started this project, we had no idea if 24 UUR LIVE would really work on our digital platform. We had little experience with music entertainment, but at the same time we knew our readers and viewers craved something other than another coronavirus dossier.
When we started on Friday, March 12, at 6:00 p.m., we were anxious to see how many people wanted to log in on our site to be part of the concert. When the music started and the first images of people dancing and singing in their living rooms reached us, we knew that it would be a success.
Throughout the 24 hours, our livestream (viewed behind a login wall) welcomed more than 2.2 million starts in a region with 6.6 million inhabitants. The average viewing duration was 63 minutes, which is extraordinary for our news platform. The total reach on the Web and app grew massively, and we also attracted a lot of new customers.
Above all, we initiated a positive project in the hearts of many people. We were trending on all social media, and we were overwhelmed by the warmth and positivity of all the reactions. HLN definitely made the difference. Music became news, and news became music.