Network launches user-generated video show

ABC is hoping to reinvent the newsmagazine for the YouTube generation with a show produced by ABC News but based on user-generated video.

Hourlong skein “i-Caught” will get a six-week run on the network starting Aug. 6 at 10pm on Mondays with an eye toward a midseason return if it performs as well as the network hopes.

Amateur video will form the basis of the show’s segments, but ABC News correspondents will build news stories and features around video captured on cell phones or digicams and uploaded to a companion Web site.

Exec producer David Sloan said the show will take on a wide breadth of potential stories, including breaking news; celebrity journalism; investigations; and stories of politics, crime, Internet hoaxes or just the moments of everyday life.

“The watershed event that changed newsgathering was the London terror attack in 2005,” Sloan said. “There were people on that subway who did not know if they would live or die, but they got out their cell phones and started shooting.”

Much will depend on what rolls in, but Sloan said ABC News journalists also will shoot segments on video getting viral play on other sites.

The networks have tried various concepts to marry a television show with the viral appeal of YouTube-fueled clip culture.

Al Gore-backed Current TV allows amateurs to upload material for broadcast. Warner Bros. and AOL are producing the syndicated “TMZ,” based on the Web site.

CNN recognized the value of cell-phone video early on and set up i-Report, inviting users to upload video. A student at Virginia Tech used the service to upload the only live footage of the campus shooting rampage in April.

The ABC show will be anchored by “Good Morning America” weekend edition co-anchor Bill Weir; a companion Web site, I-caught.com, will launch on June 12 to begin collecting submissions.

Effort reps another attempt to resurrect the TV newsmag, which has clung to ratings life by leaning on soft topics and true crime as audiences for the shows age and dwindle.

The original, “60 Minutes,” remains a solid ratings performer, and ABC’s “Nightline” has grown lately as a multi-topic half-hour, but “Primetime” has been reduced to a series of specials rather than a regular presence on the schedule.

ABC’s show grew out of a series of “Primetime” episodes called “Caught on Tape.” The network originally saw the show as a midseason entry but, due to the competitive nature of reality-based concepts, decided to rush it onto the schedule in August.

Sloan wants to position the show as a primetime venue for everything from leaked video from the battlefield in Iraq to vid from the campaign trail or video diaries, such as a parent’s account of a child’s first day at school.

Recent stories that could have fit the show include former Sen. George Allen’s “Macaca” moment, Alec Baldwin’s abusive voicemail and David Hasselhoff’s bizarre behavior — stories all derived from nontraditional sources.

“Everyone is becoming a hunter and gatherer for the news business,” Sloan said. “There is this whole interesting world of images and people; things that make you mad, make you worry or make you laugh. We want to explore all of that world.”

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