The success of web TV shows such as Bebo’s Kate Modern and Lonely Girl 15 has lead to a renewed interest in the industry. MySpace has just announced plans to distribute its own TV shows through television and DVD, as it seeks to broaden its reach away from the computer.
The Rupert Murdoch-owned company’s TV shows, which include QuarterLife, Roommates and Special Delivery will soon air on screens outside the US with shows potentially localised. The deal was signed with the Elisabeth Murdoch-run Shine Group who was responsible for bringing ‘The Office’ to the US. MySpace will retain all net rights to its programmes.
According to Tom Weiss, CEO of TV and search specialist, TV Genius, the move will only increase News International’s influence.
"When you take into account broadband penetration, there are a lot more people in Europe with access to a TV in a place they can watch it for long periods, than there are those with a fast Internet connection. Overall, the deal will help increase Rupert Murdoch’s influence. MySpace has very effectively captured the age group that traditionally does not watch television, and migrating this brand onto conventional broadcast will ensure that they remain loyal to MySpace as they grow older," said Weiss.
Travis Katz, head of MySpace’s international arm commented on how the offline and online distribution of its TV shows could complement each other.
"MySpace is essentially the world’s largest focus group. You can see what resonates with people and then take that content and blow it out worldwide," said Katz, during the announcement of the deal at the MipTV-Milia conference in Cannes.
The recent US writers strike forced the major media companies to rethink their traditional method of paying a large amount of money for pilot shows. The move is seen by many as a way for New Corp to experiment with material and gauge audience opinion.
This follows news that MySpace - the world’s largest social networking site - has signed a deal with music groups, Universal, Sony BMG and Warner to start an online service similar to that of iTunes. The partnership with Shine Group marks one of News Corp’s most ambitious plays to distinguish MySpace from the likes of Facebook and Bebo, positioning it as a media platform as well as a social networking site.
According to Forrester Research analyst, James McQuivey, media companies have been experimenting with using the web in order to create content but have so far failed spectacularly.
"It hasn’t produced bankable shows outside of the Internet, or even on the Internet. If you look at it (Web shows), there’s a good reason why - it’s mostly bad," he said.
Indeed, MySpace’s own QuarterLife show was shown on US network, NBC and viewing figures suggest that it was an unmitigated failure - placing it last among the big TV networks in the time-slot.
"What makes good television has been changing over the past number of years, the story arcs have been getting longer and more complex and new narrative devices have been used (a great example of this is 24 and the CSI series)," explains Ged Carroll, lead consultant, Digital Strategies Group (EMEA) at Waggener Edstrom Worldwide.
"Some of those changes have been mirrored in web series like the long-running Lonely Girl 15 series. The inherent limitations in shooting for the Web has proved to be a creative spur that has driven some great content but I am not necessarily convinced if it can compete with offline content on its own turf."