Balcony Stories

Over the past several months, most of the world’s population has found itself facing the unprecedented reality of being forced to stay at home. While lockdown has, of course, affected us in many ways, one unexpected effect is that it’s caused us to redefine our relationship with the space we inhabit.

Whether you live in a rural area with no neighbors, a large house, or a small city dwelling, it’s safe to say that the four walls you call your own took on a new significance this year. Suddenly, activities that normally occurred elsewhere took place exclusively at home. From work and exercise to relaxation and socializing, life in 2020 has happened largely inside our homes.

It became clear to us that these unprecedented times at home presented a unique opportunity for storytelling. The question then became which stories to tell and how to share them in the right way.

The Birth of the Balcony Stories Series

Luckily, the answer was staring us right in the face. It all started with balconies.

For those lucky enough to have one, this space became a portal to our surroundings. It was perhaps the one area in our homes whose significance changed the most, as it was the only place where we could interact with the outside world. And in thinking about the changing role of balconies for people all over the world, the idea for our new series was born.

In a time where we couldn’t invite people into our homes through our front doors as we usually would, we’ve had to invite them instead through our balconies. This space was where we could go to feel the sun on our faces, and if we were lucky enough, it was also somewhere we could socialize with our neighbors from a safe distance.

Despite all of the challenges of the pandemic, of which there are many, some genuinely inspirational tales have emerged as a result, and many of them were occurring from balconies. These stories were the ones we wanted to share. We decided that those tales would form the basis for Balcony Stories.

A Celebration of Positivity

And so this new series was born, a short-form creation that aimed to tell a different side of life in lockdown.

Its goal was to celebrate the positive and creative ways people were coping with being stuck inside. Because it became clear to us that people needed to share their stories of what life in lockdown was like, we wanted to use our global platform to connect with people around the world and help others do the same.

Raffaele Annecchino, the President of ViacomCBS Networks VCNI, described the situation perfectly: “At ViacomCBS, we have always been committed to reaching our audience everywhere and at any time. Now that we are living in this unprecedented situation, more than ever, we need to stay connected and close to our fans, helping them to stay positive.”

The Spirit of “Balcony Stories”

And that’s precisely what we’ve done.

Balcony Stories is the result of a collaboration with Fremantle. It takes user-generated content—from both audience and talent—to transform users into the protagonists of their own stories. Our idea was for these stories to bring us together in positivity, even if we were physically apart.

Raffaele Annecchino expanded on the idea of positivity, saying, “Balcony Stories was born with this spirit. During these months, our eyes have opened up as well as our imagination, our sense of humor, and the artist within us all. Sharing the fun and emotional stories that we are all living can underline even more the fact that we are still all together, reflecting the empathy, creativity, and positive vibes from around the world. With Balcony Stories, we want to celebrate this positive attitude.”

Keeping Spirits Up Across the Globe

We’ve been proud to celebrate this positive attitude across many different platforms.

Balcony Stories premiered on several of our linear channels, including MTV, VH1, Comedy Central, Paramount Networks, BET, and Spike. It was also included in digital platforms around the world, in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.

What’s more, is that we transformed the content and localized it into 27 different versions. Since we announced the series in April, Balcony Stories has aired in 130 countries and on 100 different channels, with four daily episodes showing Monday to Friday. The best content even receives a spotlight feature in extended episodes on Saturdays.

But what we’re most proud of is how Balcony Stories is documenting the trials and tribulations that come with this unique situation. We couldn’t think of a better way to give back during these challenging times than by giving our audience a platform to share their stories—and, in the process, reminding one other that we’re all in this together.

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