Dr Media says, the meet up , smash up is underway, video and social networking and the studios want in on the game, why, well at 100/minute vs 50000/min production costs why not??
Webisodes become billboards for network shows, afterall didn’t books become the foundation of movies?’
Back to the future, all over again.
Video’s New Friends
Social-Networking Sites Ramp Up Original Online Series
To Lure Users, Advertisers and Compete With YouTube
By JESSICA E. VASCELLARO
February 28, 2008; Page B1
College student Zoey Colson joined social-networking Web site Bebo.com last summer for one reason — to watch Bebo’s hit video series “KateModern,” a mystery show about an art student.
To promote the show, whose first season drew an average of 1.5 million video views per week, Bebo relies on the interaction among the Web site’s users. It sends alerts to members to tell them when new episodes are posted. And it allows members to send messages to characters, like the one the 20-year-old Ms. Colson wrote telling Kate’s roommate to cheer up when a plot twist didn’t go her way.
SEE THE SHOWS
• “Special Delivery”
FROM ALL THINGS D
• A video interview with the producer of “Kate Modern.”
• Kara Swisher visits Bebo’s production facilities in London.
“You feel like you are part of their world,” says Ms. Colson.
Bebo and other social-networking sites like News Corp.’s MySpace are taking the plunge into original Web series at a time when the popularity of online video is surging. The social sites hope to use the shows to attract advertising revenue. More importantly, they are banking on the original content to keep users from fleeing to popular Web sites such as Google Inc.’s YouTube that focus almost exclusively on video.
Now in its second season, “KateModern” became a sleeper hit for Bebo. Bebo’s success with “KateModern,” whose episodes are only a few minutes long, has prompted the closely held social-networking site to plan other series for later this year, including a reality show, “The Gap Year,” and a drama, “Sophia’s Diary.” Meanwhile, Bebo has been exploring a possible sale and has had interest from companies such as CBS Corp., people familiar with the matter say. Bebo declined to comment on a possible sale.
Meanwhile, MySpace.com, the No. 1 social-networking site in the U.S. as measured by unique monthly visitors, this week launched a hidden-camera show, “Special Delivery,” the second series co-created by the Web site. Its first co-created program, “Roommates,” a reality show about college friends that launched at the end of last year, is currently drawing an average of 200,000 viewers per episode during its second season. MySpace, which has hired several former Hollywood executives to help its video effort, is owned by News Corp., which also owns The Wall Street Journal. Bebo, based in San Francisco, had 22 million unique visitors in January, compared with MySpace’s 109 million, according to comScore Inc.
The social networkers’ push into original video contrasts with other Web companies’ move to scale back in the area. Yahoo Inc. retreated from plans to focus on creating original Web series more than a year ago after some early tries failed to take off. More recently, Time Warner Inc.’s AOL discontinued some original Web video projects but is still adding original video to sites such as AOL music and AOL home.
The growing popularity of YouTube poses a particular competitive threat to social-networking sites. Roughly a quarter of users who view videos on MySpace also watch shows on each of the major television networks’ Web sites, while more than 80% watch them on YouTube, according to Nielsen Online.
What’s more, the average MySpace visitor spent 10% less time on the site in January 2008 compared with January 2007, according to comScore Inc. The average YouTube user spent 57% more time on YouTube during the same period. To reverse the trend, social networks want to engage members with compelling shows they hope can generate the level of buzz of other Web video hits.
The new efforts come amid a broader evolution in the online-video landscape. Past efforts by Web companies to turn themselves into online versions of television networks have been hampered by the difficulty in changing ingrained consumer habits — while people are happy to watch short video clips from time to time, few until recently saw the Web as a forum to follow regular episodes of series. For online-only shows, weak advertiser interest, subpar production quality and lack of promotional muscle were added hurdles.
But in the past year or so, online video-watching has surged, driven by a flood of new content. The major television networks have begun making many of their prime-time series available on the Web. At the same time, video advertising is exploding, held back only by the lack of shows around which to advertise — something more Web-only video series can help solve.
Both Bebo and MySpace see opportunities in making their own video series by pursuing program ideas targeted to their members’ interests and which can be adapted on the fly. Bebo killed off the main character of “KateModern” after users complained about the character on message boards and forums. “We want to engage viewers in the show,” says Ziv Navoth, vice president of marketing and business development for Bebo.
The companies are investing cautiously, placing small bets before developing full series. Before green-lighting the entire 18-episode “Special Delivery,” MySpace filmed a handful of episodes to run by advertisers. Both sites are keeping episodes to a Web-friendly few minutes in length.
The direct payoff from the series may be small. Bebo says the sponsors of “KateModern,” which include major advertisers such as Procter & Gamble Co.’s Gillette and Microsoft Corp.’s MSN, paid an average of about $400,000 for six-month sponsorships. PepsiCo Inc.’s Cheetos, the sponsor behind “Special Delivery,” calls its investment “minimal.” But the costs aren’t very large, either. MySpace estimates its shows cost about $1,000 a minute to film and produce. (In comparison, television episodes can cost $50,000 or more a minute.) And by getting involved in the writing themselves, the sites can offer advertisers premium product placements: Ford Motor Co. sponsored “Roommates,” including arranging to have a scene filmed inside a Ford car.
Not every social-networking site is convinced video investments are worth the money. Facebook Inc., MySpace’s close rival in the U.S., hasn’t gotten involved in writing or producing original content.
But MySpace and Bebo are confident the nature of their sites can make a difference. Cristian Cussen, MySpace TV’s director of marketing and content, says MySpace’s original shows are built not only around plots but also around communities. For example, each show is anchored on a MySpace page from which users can pull videos to embed on their MySpace blogs. “Our play is creating a centralized hub…that really complements the content,” he says.
MySpace also is luring video producers by highlighting the company’s ties to the entertainment industry through parent News Corp. The site, which took off in part by promoting bands and comedians, is trying to build on its roots by offering more established writing and directing talent a chance to do more than a typical Web series. The idea helped MySpace connect with Avalon Television Ltd., a London-based company that specializes in comedy shows and helped create “Special Delivery.”
Avalon Television President David Martin said he wanted to develop a relationship with MySpace that would eventually lead to opportunities in a bigger entertainment medium, noting that Internet-only series aren’t usually economically beneficial. “The things that appeal to us,” he says, “are the sort of the things that have potential to have life somewhere else.”