Webcasts for everyone

<I>Variety</I> panel included Terra's Bonnelly, Distraction's Gough

MONTE CARLO — Network bosses received a chilling warning at the Monte Carlo TV mart Tuesday: In the Internet age, anybody can be a broadcaster.

That, at least, is the philosophy of interactive TV company Kamera Interactive, whose senior director of content development and acquisitions Magnus Zaar took part in a Variety panel on formats, new media and interactivity.

Panel, chaired by Variety’s European editor of special reports Sharon Swart, included Rafael Bonnelly, head of content at Terra Networks; John Gough, director of new media and converged formats at Distraction Formats; John Raczka, senior VP of content at BT Openworld; and Hans Schiff of the William Morris Agency.

Instant programming

“Sitting at your own desk, with three buttons on your computer, you can create your own TV program,” Zaar asserted.

Nevertheless, the Swedish exec said developing a format suitable for the Internet made TV formats look “so, so simple.”

Despite skepticism about TV on the Internet, Gough pointed out that multiformat shows such as “Big Brother” had brought Internet broadcasting a step closer to credibility.

“After one year of success with ‘Big Brother,’ you could take away the TV part and still have success with the Internet part,” he maintained.

Hot online drama

That the Internet can be a powerful medium for programming was demonstrated, Gough said, by the success of “Online Caroline,” an interactive Internet drama that had Web users in the U.K. so hooked last year that several people called the police when the homes of one of the characters in the program was burglarized.

Bonnelly said the key to success was finding a concept that would migrate naturally across different platforms, thereby tapping into “the power that distribution across multiple platforms gives you.

“Formats have to be developed that encourage user participation,” Bonnelly said, hinting at a project that Terra Networks is developing with Endemol.

Companies like Terra want to be in on development from day one, the exec said.

“We as an Internet company are willing to develop the brand, and we are willing to invest in it. But we are less willing to pay for online rights.

“Any project these days has to be focused on revenues, and if it doesn’t have the TV component, it doesn’t have the massive distribution possibilities.”

Schiff agreed: “TV has to be the first consideration nine times out of 10.”

For a program to be truly multiplatform, however, it has to be conceived that way from the outset, panelists agreed.

“There are too many bad ideas. When a bad interactive idea is added to a drama, it is meaningless — don’t do it,” Gough said.

The creation of Web programming, though, should not be treated like a mysterious art, Schiff said. “The creative folks making TV programs today are the folks who will create the next generation of entertainment on any platform.”

While talking up the possibilities of Web television, Raczka conceded with other panelists that there was a “content deficit” that formed part of a vicious circle with the low number of broadband connections in holding back development of the platform.

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