C21 asks producers and platform commissioners how they have captured youth audiences with social media, gaming and a fresh approach to production.
FMX is FremantleMedia's digital division and has recently found success with Freak, its online coming-of-age teen drama, on which it partnered with MySpace, Proctor & Gamble and Red Bull. Freak is the story of a girl who is perceived as a tomboy and goes on a journey from 'geek to chic.'
"We wanted to create something that was as good as our television drama for a small budget and wasn't just TV online but had lots of interactive touch points," says Richard Vargas (left), FMX's senior VP of development and production.
FMX envisioned three areas for interaction: Befriend, where the audience could befriend some of the characters; Explore, which fleshed out the world of characters on MySpace profile pages; and Participate, where the audience could join in to create elements for the show, such as featuring on film or scoring the soundtrack.
The project finished last summer and FMX is now in conversations with its partners to bring back Freak for a second season. "A big thing we are finding at the moment is that there is less of an appetite for platforms to go out and sell these projects with us, but if we go to MySpace or any of the others with a project that is fully funded, they are usually quite keen," Vargas says.
Jo Twist (below) is multi-platform commissioning executive for BBC Entertainment and the BBC's teen service Switch, which spans all platforms including online, television and radio.
Twist says that Chartjackers is one of the projects she has been proudest of this year. Created by Hat Trick Productions, it aired on BBC2 on Saturdays and on YouTube. The project tasks four budding music moguls with finding and developing a hit band. The youngsters have 10 weeks to achieve a number one single with no money, using just the online community.
Looking ahead, Twist says she is considering using online networks such as Facebook and Twitter to extend social viewing. "We are very keen to examine how we might connect with this audience using Facebook Connect or Twitter. I am interested in Facebook as a playful platform, and for me it will be about looking into how we can take social viewing into more playful areas," she says.
"Even if you're doing one thing over here, it can trigger an event, a community or something else over there. So it will be interesting looking at ways to extend the experience."
Channel 4 Education
Channel 4 began a concerted push into digital and social media in 2007 when head of C4 Education Janey Walker decided that the division's entire £6m (US$9.9m) budget would shift from television to online in a bid to better connect with its audience.
"This was the first time that anyone had taken money out of TV and spent it on new media rather than getting extra budget for it," explains Matt Locke (left), commissioning editor for education at the broadcaster. "It's allowed us to really explore platform-agnostic commissioning."
Some of C4E's most recent projects have included Derren Brown's Science of Scams and game format Smokescreen. The former, a spin-off from the TV series, explains the science and explodes the myths behind para-normal phenomena. Seven films appeared on a dedicated site run by Illumina Digital, as well as C4's YouTube channel and its on-demand service. The series was created by Objective Productions.
"It's been great having a celebrity of Derren's stature and seeing some of the comments on YouTube. A lot of the traffic has been driven by Derren and his tweets and his online community," says Locke.
The latter project, Smokescreen, made with prodco 60Start, was a web literacy game about online, privacy identity and trust. It comprised a 13-part game with each episode about 10 minutes long.
16 Feb 2010
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