October 29, 2007

Tide Turns in Favour of Webisodes

With the success of LG15 and KateModern, a flurry of new online video Webisodes has overtaken the space in recent months with big name advertisers now lining up to get in on the action.

We recently reported Bebo's third Webisode installment, Sofia's Diary.

Bebo's lead has now prompted Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. owned MySpace to launch its first scripted online series, with Ford Focus sponsoring, via MySpaceTV. The show, Roommates, follows eight former college roomies that have all picked up and moved to LA. While MySpace owns the editorial content, LA-based Iron Sink Media will handle production.

MySpace has also partnered with Hearst to produce another Web-only reality show targeting first year college students. The new reality show, Freshman 15, will follow 15 girls in the first year of college as they tackle the troubles of adjusting to their new lives.

CosmoGirl magazine and Raw Digital are also partnering on an online soap opera series set in a suburban Michigan high school. The three to four-minute webisodes will air three times a week for five weeks on cosmogirl.com. It will follow the lives and adventures of Jaime and Anna, a pair of best friends.

Meanwhile, Proctor & Gamble have been busy launching their own online and off-deck Webisode called "Crescent Heights", sponsored by Tide. This is one of the first times an advertiser has used both the Web and mobile for distribution of original programming. The company is credited with inventing the soap opera by sponsoring the "Ma Perkins' radio show in the U.S and, later, "Guiding Light," so you would expect such an innovator to be one of the first to try to recreate that success in today's digital universe.

Earlier this month, Australian cross-platform production company Hoodlum won a MIPCOM Mobile & Internet TV award for the drama Emmerdale Online, conceived to run concurrently with British broadcaster ITV's long-running prime-time soap of the same name. Hoodlum's founders Tracey Robertson and Nathan Mayfield talked about digital storytelling at last week's SPAA Fringe event in Sydney and their past project for Yahoo7's PS Trixi.

After a run on the conference speaker circuit from MIPTV in Cannes last month to the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, KateModern creator Miles Beckett is in Melbourne this week to promote mobile media as part of ACMI's Portable Film Festival. His arrival down under is timely, given that the local Australian version of YouTube launched last week.

With the average Webisode being only three to four minutes long, Australian short film makers are some of the most talented in the world and can really tap this space if they wake up to its potential.

Every Australian short film maker should have their own channel on YouTube.

Globally, online dramas have come of age this year, and interest in the developing format from internet publishers, mobile phone carriers, advertisers and even TV networks and traditional production studios has come alive in the past few months.

Advertisers including Procter & Gamble, MSN, Orange mobile and Disney are paying up to $568,000 each to integrate their brands into KateModern, which has attracted 18 million views in 10 weeks.

Local versions of YouTube have already launched in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Britain, France, Italy, Spain, Japan, Brazil, Mexico, Poland, Netherlands and Ireland.

Welcome to the global village.

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