Wednesday, February 14, 2007


The Screen Actor's Guild announced that they are starting a casting service for auditioning actors that allows for the uploading of video. The service, "iActor", will allow "all active, paid-up Guild members to upload their headshots, resumes, video clips and audio clips to create individual iActor profiles that will be searchable by casting professionals. Launching to the industry in spring, iActor will allow casting professionals to search the database in order to cast SAG members."

Unlike other verticals in the video uploading craze, this actually seems to be a sound idea. A system where people may audition for certain roles without having to show up at a certain time and place would benefit casting directors by at least filtering out the best of the initial applicants. Of course an actor must prove themselves in person, but if you consider how much time and energy goes into screening the first hundred applicants or more, than the benefits are huge.

Another use for this same idea would be for Reality-Tv shows that still ask their applicants to fill out forms and send in a 5 minute tape of yourself. The massive amounts of letters and tapes they receive could easily be done away with by a video uploading service that allows applicants to submit their audition video through the Internet.


It has been some time since I've updated readyforbroadcast, so in keeping up with my previous post and the latest news, Comcast is partnering with social networking site Facebook to start a user-generated show called "Facebook Diaries". According to Businessweek: "the series will consist of 10 half-hour episodes produced by R.J. Cutler, known for his edgy work gathering stories from regular folks in shows such as "American High," a nonfiction TV series chronicling the lives of suburban teens at an Illinois high school." The shows will be aired on both Comcast's Ziddio site as well as their VOD channel and will appear on Facebook as well.

Not sure where Comcast's other venture with Endemol went but it seems the cable giant is really eager to monetize the UGC craze. However, this deal seems more in favor of Facebook than Comcast. Apparently Facebook currently does not have any video uploading capabilities, they simply let users post links of videos that are hosted on other sites. This joint effort with Comcast "will expand Facebook's video sharing capability."

Time will tell if this venture, and others like it, will succeed. The good part with Facebook Diaries is that it is not simply just home videos. The project is being produced by someone with experience in storytelling, which means they are not just relying on the hype around user-gen content, they are actually trying to do something creative.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

More UGC in Broadcast

In another twist to online submissions for television broadcasts, Comcast's Ziddio site is collecting tapes "for proposed TV series to Ziddio" where the winner's show will be produced by Endemol, producer of many of today's reality shows. It seems Comcast and Endemol are joining the ranks of wanting to cash in on "people's urge to show off their talent by starring in their own videos".

Although Comcast is a major cable operator and Endemol is the name brand behind the reality-based television boom, how long will the major M&E's survive in this rapid democratization of UGC? After a while one must ask if these outlets will really exist in the next 5 years. Will television one day just become a PC in a living room where a tech company like Google owns the channel?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Sign of the TIMEs

It's decided...the You-sers have won. In TIME Magazine's 2006 "Person of the Year Award, the winner is you". This year's upsurge in user-centric social media that TIME Magazine has deemed "a community and collaboration on a scale never seen before" has made this year's winner the average users behind this social networking phenomenon. "For seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game, TIME's Person of the Year for 2006 is you."

Noting that the "cosmic compendium of knowledge Wikipedia and the million-channel people's network YouTube and the online metropolis MySpace will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes." The article goes on to say that although this year's social networking craze was made possible by the Internet, and Silicon Valley's attempts to coin this phenomenon as "Web 2.0", TIME's technical writer Lev Grossman stresses that what is actually happening is a people's revolution. "It's a tool for bringing together the small contributions of millions of people and making them matter."

This clever acknowledgement of UGC by a major media outlet such as TIME, is the perfect note for social media to end the year on. 2006 will one day be looked back on as the year the world of information changed forever. TIME's editor Richard Stengel stated that "journalists once had the exclusive province of taking people to places they'd never been. But now a mother in Baghdad with a videophone can let you see a roadside bombing, or a patron in a nightclub can show you a racist rant by a famous comedian."

This revolution has not only stripped away the power of propaganda from major M&E's, but it has truly democratized media in a way that allows the whole world to form an unfiltered opinion about current events. Opinions about topics ranging from politics to fashion will forever be decided by the populations who have real-time access to information.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Ready for Online?

As an interesting sign of how well Hollywood is adopting an online presence for it's content, CBS has said it is filtering the public comments that are posted around it's content on YouTube to avoid “profane, unconstructive criticism, and off-topic political vitriol”. Apparently CBS has requested that YouTube re-design the layout of it's CBS page by placing posted comments from users on another page instead of underneath the video as it does with other hosted content.

“We just want to make sure the front page is a little bit cleaner,” said Quincy Smith, president of CBS Interactive, adding that comments containing certain profanities are caught by an automatic filter, while the remaining comments are then vetted by someone who works at CBS or YouTube and moved to the separate page. “We thought it was a better user experience, and it gives us a second to weed out the completely unuseful comments.”

The CBS/YouTube deal has so far had positive results for the network. According to an announcement the companies made last month, CBS videos were among some of the most-viewed content on YouTube during the first month of partnership. CBS is using YouTube as a litmus test for how popular their content would be online, which would make user's comments not all together a bad thing. Mr. Smith added that "CBS was trying to provide the best possible interactive experience for the viewers, noting that many YouTube users’ critical comments are passed around the network."

It seems the love-hate relationship Hollywood has with the online video marketplace goes all the way down to the actual comments that users post about the content. The questions still remain: Will Hollywood conform to web culture? Will web culture embrace Hollywood content the same way it does UGC? I believe these minute details, such as user's comments, will add up to determine the success of HollyWeb. What is for certain is that if the M&E's go too far in restricting the interaction that people enjoy in today's online platform, they will see their popularity diminish for being unable to fully embrace the independent nature of the web experience.

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Battle Lines Being Drawn?

In the latest development of UGC in online and broadcasting, 4 major networks have come together to try and take on Google/YouTube. Reportedly, News Corp/FOX, CBS, NBC and Viacom are in talks to start an online site "to cash in on the fast-growing market of Web video advertising." Apparently Disney/ABC is abstaining from the talks to concentrate on their own brand. This unprecedented announcement only further displays that major Hollywood M&E's are panicking about the prospects of losing their viewers to cyberspace.

This aslo raises a lot of question's around what is actually driving the traffic and ratings in today's entertainment. Is Google/YouTube's success really about sharing video in a user-centric experience, or is it Hollywood's pirated content that is driving the masses to log on to the controversial site? Another question is whether grassroots vloggers would even use a mainstream hub, made by major networks, to post their videos on.

All this leads me back to the topic of "experience". What content is available on your site comes second to the actual experience your users have (from filling out account information to submitting personal videos to ordering A-list movies) when it comes to generating traffic. In today's information age, people want the ultimate choice combined with immediate access, regardless of price, content or technology.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

More On Yahoo & UGC

It seems that Yahoo is doing more in UGC than just joining forces with Reuters. Apparently the whole restructuring that is taking place will divide Yahoo into 2 main branches: "Audience" and "Advertising" and revamp the company to be more "user-centric". (Yahoo laid off Lloyd Braun, the executive hired to make Yahoo a major Hollywood entertainment powerhouse.)

This move by Yahoo underscores a major shift that many of the major Media & Entertainment companies are undergoing, including MTV and NBC. Why are these companies making such an aggressive push for a new grassroots digital infrastructure? The main reason is that they are performing poorly in their respective industries: Yahoo is losing major market share to Google in online traffic, and NBC is losing major television ratings to ABC. The solution? Reorganize your whole executive structure, layoff employees, and push for a more cost efficient "digital" business model.

Yahoo's approach is to make the online experience more user friendly for their customer base and NBC plans to rely heavily on cheaper reality shows rather than scripted comedies and dramas as well as digitally streamline their news bureau. The correlation is that these media companies, from both online and television, have realized that UGC/reality-based type of entertainment is not only popular but cost effective.

This sounds like a win-win for these M&E conglomerates and their audiences, but there are losers as well. As these companies rely more heavily on UGC type material, writers, actors and directors are left out in the cold. In a luncheon for the Hollywood Radio and Television Societies this week, creators of some of television's hit shows complained that broadcasters are using reality based programming as a "crutch and an excuse for the networks not to develop great scripted shows".

It is becoming clear that M&E is making a major transformation from a legacy of scripted, creative programming to a more do-it-yourself type experience where users are in control. I do not believe that the UGC phenomenon will ultimately make the television experience like viewing YouTube or MySpace online, but I do think that it will force television broadcasters to adopt a more non-linear approach to their programming where users have more choices.