Internet business will gain a whole new meaning for the entertainment industry if Simon Fuller’s latest venture is well-received.
The show, titled ‘If I Can Dream’, focuses on five Hollywood hopefuls brought together in a sprawling L.A. mansion – and is broadcasted using only the Internet. The contestants have to find themselves a career out in the world, and the show documents their struggle. Like reality show ‘Big Brother’, there are 56 high-definition cameras located in the house, and viewers can go onto the website at any time to watch live footage of what they are doing.
An edited 30 minute episode will be available once a week on Hulu for viewers in the US, and on the show’s own website, http://www.ificandream.com for audience abroad. Hulu is a video website, a joint venture between Fox and NBC.
Simon Fuller, the creator of shows such as American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance, is convinced that the Internet is a dimension waiting to be financially explored. In a press conference prior to the show release, he said: ““I am determined to push the boundaries of mainstream entertainment. The next frontier is the video world of authentic real time interaction.”
However, social networking experts are worried the world is not yet ready for an exclusively online show. “The concept is interesting, and it is definitely an aspect of the future of the entertainment industry”, said Benjamin Paul, social media analyst. “But it seems dangerous to rely on a medium where the show will have to compete with more than just other TV programming. When everything else is just a click away, it would be very easy to lose viewers if, say, the video is taking too long to load, or even if they suddenly get an important email, or just click away to an online game instead. The attention span of a person over the Internet is much less than while watching something on a TV set, which is a screen dedicated to watching the show.”
Moreover, the Internet is full of web-based, Youtube-style amateur shows. “It has been done before, but not on this scale”, says Paul. “And it hasn’t really taken off yet as a legit ‘entertainment’ sector, because it hasn’t yet been done by a professional with the experience that Fuller has. But so far, most webisode type programming has been lost in the crowd.”
Fuller has tried to capitalize on the variety over the Internet, and is trying to make “fans of the show more than just viewers” by allowing the contestants to have Facebook, Twitter and MySpace pages which let them interact and chat with the viewers.
Almost 178 million U.S. Internet users watched online video in December 2009, when viewing reached a record 33.2 billion videos, according to digital measurement company comScore. Going by these statistics, Fuller’s vision has won the backing of blue-chip business partners Pepsi and Ford Motors, although long-form standalone video on the Internet has yet to fully establish itself.
“If I Can Dream” will launch across multiple platforms, including mobile handsets and radio. Viewers will be able to download content, listen to radio shows with the contestants’ music, and use their mobile phones to connect with the contestants via Twitter and Facebook. “This sort of constant reminder of the show is needed”, said Paul. “Otherwise it will be lost in the littered world wide web.”
The toughest challenge will be promoting “If I Can Dream” in the crowded Hulu market, which saw more than one billion video streams in December, according to ComScore.
So far, the show has had two episodes, and an impressive 400,000 unique visitors. Paul thinks it helps that they focus on the wannabe actresses and models posing in bikinis. Jade Walker, an Internet business consultant, thinks Fuller may have struck gold. “So far, he’s roped in sponsors including MetroPCS and Walt Disney, which is great for him. If he continues to get enough advertisers to sign on, and enough web views, the series could be a means to move away from obviously scripted reality-TV to a clean platform for talent. If he can generate enough hype, he may have a hit on his hands.”
The show can be watched here