He briefly skirted around one topic that really piqued my interest. He called Bebo a 'Media channel' before semi-correcting himself. With the launch of Kate Modern (explained below) it hints at a future where Social Networks don't just give you peer or friend created info, it's also the place where you'll 'discover' new music and entertainment, but also find 'formatted' shows - drama, games, quizzes, as well a reality, documentary and news.
Kate Modern, is essentially a drama with a who-done-it, what-is-going-on? game built in. Think Miss Marple crossed with Lost, crossed with The OC across multiple sites, and with no central hub other than one you create yourself.
I was genuinely engrossed In Kate Modern's story for too long whilst preparing this post; viewers are encouraged to interact and whilst perhaps not directly controlling events, it is obviously being written as it progressing responding to the audience's feedback. It's obviously very raw, and a very new format that has a touch of a 'school play' feel to the acting, but that can't dent its power as a new force in entertainment.
This new segment is also being explored by Alternative Reality Game producers like Mindcandy and touched upon in my post 'What is the Next Big Brother?'. It's also worth noting that this kind of interactive programming/event that engages more directly with its audience is also much of a buzz in the advertising world where there is a trend to get an audience to participate with a brand's values, rather than being given a message via a traditional advert.
The fact that the likes of more obvious entertainment providers like Joost , Xbox Live or even Channel 4’s Big Brother also have social networking aspects further highlights where people believe the industry is heading to; convergence to an extent not seen before, and barely envisioned by those in traditional formatted entertainment.
So these online formats are in their early stages, barely out of the starting blocks but an important trend nether-the-less. Whilst popular, LonelyGirl15, Kate Modern's predecessor racked up 50 Million views, it's not quite had the cut-through of a Buffy, Lost or American Idol. But I believe that will change quickly, as more advertisers move into this space (such as Kate Modern's Neutrogena), working methodologies are finessed and these shows move into the mass market mainstream.
Its worth noting that whilst Bebo commissioned Kate Modern, the show plays out across Bebo, You Tube and other websites. So despite whatever deals they have in place I would expect adverting ‘leakage’ of advertising revenues to other businesses.
So I say hats off to Bebo for exploring this genre, and I look forward to seeing Kate Modern develop, and other formats developing and exploring this space too. They’ll commissioned by 'platforms' like Bebo, FaceBook or You Tube as well as ITV.com, or even by the Nike's, Coca-Cola's or The Guardian each promoting their brand values through entertainment.
My advice - well its a learning curve for everyone involved as this new area is pioneered, but as an Executive Producer on a number of shows of multiple genres across multiple formats, it is worth remembering that whilst things change, they also stay the same. From Homer, through Shakespeare, Cecil B de Mille and P Diddy, it's always been about knowing your audience and having a good editorial judgment. Yes, its ultimately about bums on seats and business, but you get there through the subtleties of creativity and a strong creative vision with engaging, considered content and a knowledge of where you are going. That holds true whatever platform - from books, through theatre, TV, and now online.
So is Bebo the new ITV? Well, maybe not today but the media landscape is definitely getting more complex by the day.