'America's Funniest Home Videos' 500th Episode

FishBowl Worldwide Media may own more footage of dogs running on treadmills, babies tumbling into their first birthday cakes and people falling and slipping than any company in the world. And they know just how they’re going to use it.

With an enviable curated library of user-generated content culled from the submissions to “America’s Funniest Home Videos” during the past two decades, the company is already supplying content to everyone from “Jimmy Kimmel Live” to advertisers like Tide. And they’re already developing their own shows, websites and YouTube channels.

“I used to have lawyers doing takedowns on a daily basis,” says Vin Di Bona, creator of “AFV” and FishBowl chairman. “But it was Bruce (Gersh) who convinced me it was time to look for ways for us to monetize the content ourselves.”

Gersh is the company’s president and CEO. According to Di Bona, Gersh’s ideas about monetizing the vast “AFV” libraries of spinning dogs, funny pets and cake snafus across social media — Facebook, Twitter and YouTube — made great use of the meticulous work that had been done on the TV show.

And that work has taken place during more than 20 seasons of “AFV.” Producers and assistants have cataloged thousands of moments ranging from silly to touching to just about anything you can imagine from more than 900,000 submissions using the kinds of tags that make searching for a specific moment as easy as possible.

“In terms of metadata, that’s been gathered from the beginning,” says Gersh. “There’s an incredible team on ‘America’s Funniest Home Videos’ that developed search terms back in the days of VHS that make it as easy as possible to pull together specific moments across our library so someone can find what they need.”

Moments from the archives can already be seen in ads for Intel, Walmart, AT&T, Purina, Vonage, Nationwide Insurance, Jackson Hewitt, Whiskas, All, Bounty, Ubisoft and Sonic. Shows such as “Entertainment Tonight” and “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” have plucked moments from the library.

But FishBowl’s focus is taking the content further and using it in new ways. To that end, the company is crafting shows — across social media and more traditional networks — from user-generated content. TruTV has ordered 10 episodes of a show with the working title “Upload With Shaquille O’Neal.” The show has O’Neal searching the Internet for the funniest videos as well as commenting on clips that have gone viral. Fuse started airing the company’s show “Off Beat,” a comedy show that focuses on music-themed viral video, in September. And last year they launched Petsami, a YouTube channel billed as “for pets by pets.” It’s already had more than 22 million views.

“I’d love to say that when I first started ‘America’s Funniest Home Videos’ I could have imagined all this but it’s just not true,” says Di Bona. “But I do think we all want to see what other people are doing and we want to share in other people’s moments, which is why this content works so well across different media.”

Their first big success was “CuteWinFail,” whose title neatly summarizes so much of what happens in viral video, which has been ranked in the YouTube Comedy Channel Top 20 and has earned more than 90 million views. In June “LindoVictoriaFracaso,” the Spanish-language version of the original channel, launched and received over 835,000 views in its first three months.

While the company is pushing into the future of how user-generated content can be packaged, there’s still a legacy. “America’s Funniest Home Videos” first started gathering moments on VHS, long before acronyms like “UGC” were floating around. But these days no one has to lug a big bag of tapes around.

“Now you can go to our Facebook page or submit your video all kinds of different ways,” says Di Bona. “A lot of barriers have come down because you can make a video with your phone and send it to us in a few minutes, but we’re still getting the same kinds of things because life doesn’t change that much, even if the way you share it does.”

Di Bona knows they’ll always be looking at the next big social networking site trend for ways to gather and show content. And he also knows no one can predict what it will look like.

“We just had meeting about how we can challenge users of Instagram to participate in what we’re doing,” says Di Bona. “I can’t tell you what it will look like when we go there but I can tell you that, no matter where the audience goes, it’s the same things that touch them or make them laugh.”

‘America’s Funniest Home Videos’ 500th Episode
Slap-schtick keeps hitting funny bone | Di Bona discovers new species | Straight man for America’s pratfalls | Database boosts creative freedom | Music montages cut to the beat | FishBowl targets ‘AFV’ content | Gallery: A look back at ‘AFV’

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