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User-Created Content Comes to TV

The Web is a conversation. Now, that conversation is changing the way we look at television–and at media.
December 5, 2006

Broadcast networks are slowly loosening their grip on their content, allowing more of it to be shown online. Today, NBC is hoping that it can generate enough user-created content to fill a new television talk show.

NBC has just announced the debut of its iVillage Live talk show, an attempt to migrate the interactive properties of the Web 2.0 platform to the television by enabling viewers to upload pictures or assemble videos with One True Media’s software platform. Those images and pictures will then be integrated into both the live studio show and the online website.

From the company’s press release:

“iVillage Live is the first interactive daytime talk show that lets viewers direct the action through live chat, daily polls and comments as well as video submissions,” said Steve Schwaid, SVP of News & Programming for NBC Universal Stations.

It will be interesting to watch how much user-created content NBC allows on the air: while it’s true that user-generated content is key to any site’s growth–after all, users can create more content than any one company ever could–it’s also true that the core of that content must be very well done. That’s how a site develops an audience. Dave Weinberger and Howard Rheingold have effectively proved that.

Of course, not every new synergistic relationship will be so bold. CNBC is using a more traditional approach to online media, launching its website as a portal for business and financial news. Unlike iVillage Live, CNBC will simply aggregate all its print, video, and audio stories into packages.

From the press release: features an unprecedented amount of business videos–available streaming live, on-demand and thoroughly integrated throughout the site. will produce and post videos from its new all-digital studio in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., together with CNBC Asia headquarters in Singapore and CNBC Europe headquarters in London and bureaus in every time zone around the world.

Meanwhile Reuters, traditionally thought of as a print and wire service, has launched its own user-created service. You Watch News allows people to upload pictures they’ve taken and videos they’ve made. It’s a small step toward citizen journalism, but it’s a good step, particularly for Reuters, which can simultaneously engage its audience while expanding its daily coverage.

Of course, the whole citizen-journalism project could suffer if users begin demanding payment for videos and images that transcend the daily news (and it could get messier if they demand compensation for simple daily news stories).

This brings us back, full circle, to user-created content making the leap to television.

For years, creators have pushed their creations out to the Web, hoping their work would find an audience-and, more important, a home with a traditional media company. You can add the mobile platform to the growing list of available outlets: Comedy Central announced yesterday that it would begin airing the animated series Lil’ Bush: Resident of the United States, which debuted in September on the Amp’d Mobile service.

The reason for the partnership between Comedy Central and Amp’d? It’s simple, according to the press release: the Lil’ Bush episodes were the “most viewed video content on Amp’d Mobile almost overnight and all episodes have remained atop the Amp’d video ratings since the series debut on September 1st.”

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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