RAM: Married to It

Will broadband video shows eat broadcast's lunch? The game show "BFF" - which pits pairs of friends against one another to see which team knows each other better - is produced by former Miramar executive Meryl Poster, who has pilots stacked up at Bravo and NBC Universal. But this one's for MySpace. This isn't the only TV production company moving to the site. MySpace is also working with Endemol, creator of Fear Factor and Deal or No Deal on "Married on MySpace." In this reality show, couples compete for a lavish wedding, with MySpace users helping to plan it and then be present virtually for the big day.

Is this the start of a trend that will lead to broadband video, or BV, replacing the tube in our media-snacking culture? For producers, "It's an opportunity to incubate an idea online, be nimble in your craft in a way you haven't been before, and respond in real time to user feedback and interaction - and not be married to a pitch season that comes around once a year," says Cristian Cussen, director of content and marketing for MySpace Video.

This is something broadcasters have woken up to, according to Rishad Tobaccowalla, CEO of Denuo. Essentially, the Web could replace the old TV pilot system. Online video aggregators can get the show in front of millions of people and measure its popularity. "If Facebook or MySpace promotes the things on the front page, it's like a fire hose," he says. "Here's a way you can produce stuff, hone it, try it, get advocates, then use that to potentially go onto other platforms."

Nobody thinks BV will replace TV any time soon. TV has scale that makes the online audience look like a microbe, Tobaccowalla points out. "If you are a content person, you want to eventually get on TV," he says. "Nobody says, 'I'm on TV, now I want to be on Facebook.'?"

That's not entirely true, of course. Ashton Kutcher's Katalyst Films went from movies to TV to webisodes with its Cheetos-sponsored KatalystHQ series on Facebook. The Cheetos deal illustrates another advantage of BV: It's easier to craft a show around an advertiser.

Even with top-quality production values, broadband TV shows tend to be cheaper to make, says Andy Chapman, co-leader of Mindshare's media buying group, partly because they don't use big-name talent. Producers also seem more open to extreme product placement. Last year, Mindshare worked with MSN Branded Entertainment to create "In the Motherhood" for Sprint and Suave. The show, which let real-life moms submit anecdotes that were incorporated into story lines, moved to ABC in March 2009.

Webisode cost-cutting translates to advertising that's cheaper, too. "There's more opportunity to pick and choose content for a client, so we have an opportunity from the media standpoint to get more favorable costs," Chapman says. "There's a push-pull game happening there. The higher CPMs the online providers want to try to maintain for video content are under tremendous pressure, especially in a down market."

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