Joined-up media: Life beyond the small screen
By Kate Bulkley
January 14th, 2008
Broadcasters are keen to extend the life cycle of their content through distribution online and via mobile phones
Who would have thought that an agonisingly shy and rather plump mobile phone salesman from south Wales singing a operatic aria would be one of the standout examples of cross-platform content in 2007?
But by the time Paul Potts won the final of Britain's Got Talent on ITV1 singing Nessun Dorma, he had quite a following on YouTube. In fact the clip of Potts' initial audition for the competition - posted by the show's producers FremantleMedia and Syco - has had nearly 20 million views.
Clearly, multi-platform distribution is the future for content makers. Broadcasters around the world are talking about developing 360-degree content, where programmes have a life beyond the TV screen, both online and on mobile and even on games consoles.
But what sounds good on paper or even in a pitch meeting doesn't necessarily translate onto the different platforms. "Big Brother is held up as a successful 360- degree programme but it was commissioned as a TV show that just happened to work on the net and on mobile," says Anthony Lilley, managing director of digital producer Magic Lantern. "There have been a lot of experiments but not a lot of real successes yet."
Talkback Thames chief executive Lorraine HeggesseIy is keen to develop the independent producer's big brands such as X Factor and Britain's Got Talent onto all the new platforms, but she is also wary about trying to force a programme to be 360 when it doesn't make sense. "We are doing more things with the The Bill and The Apprentice on other platforms, but how much we do for each brand really depends what the content is and what the audience wants. I think the broadcasters and ourselves are still working all this out."
Channel 4 has pioneered a lot in the multi-platform space, both in previewing and creating buzz online about a programme like Skins before it airs on the TV, and in adding an interactive element online to engage audiences as it did with the companion website to its progamme Empire's Children. Expect more of that this year.
Beyond the creative challenges of developing good 360-degree content, there is the big question of how to make it pay. A YouTube clip from a Five celebrity football match showing Boris Johnson tackling a German opponent has attracted over a million views yet Five hasn't made one penny from the clip.
According to Paul Fifield, managing director of producer Guerrilla (which produced the football match): "The good news about the popularity of something like the Boris Johnson clip is that it may point to possible models for the future where broadcasters can commercialise moments from a broadcast online."