Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Bebo and TVNZ go for the gap

Lewis Whatiri is a self proclaimed young Maori guy from Gisborne who has just won, in his own words, the big one - to be one of the ten young people who will spend the next 6 months as part of the Bebo Gap Year going around the world with the Reality TV producers, on a series of travel adventures to be streamed onto Bebo in 30mins programme sessions. Thereafter there are more adventures to come.

The Gap Year concept is a joint venture thing between Bebo and reality television producer Endemol UK. There will be three guys and three girls to represent the UK, Ireland, America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. An interactive audition process was held and the video auditions shared on Bebo.

The Gap Year contestants draft itinerary includes Iceland, Namibia, Thailand, and Russia. They might also end up at the Rio Carnival, Brazil; Chinese New Year, China; Zen Week, Sri Lanka; Pagan Festivals, UK and the Full Moon Party Season, Thailand.

While out in the world they will blog and post online, as well as be filmed as part of the tv series. The tv plays on Bebo- with users able to tune into the series, with a half hour catch-up show will also be broadcast each week on the site. At this stage it's unclear as to whether the tv series will also be picked up by other main stream television syndicates.

Lewis's profile on Bebo is here. Why not visit and offer him some encouragement.

He deserves it. I meet him in the TVNZ Green room yesterday. He is a really engaging and very engaged young guy who understandable is over the moon to have been chosen as the New Zealand rep. As yet he still doesn't quite know where everyone s going and what will happen.

The TVNZ Breakfast TV interview is here. Warning, you also , by invitation, get me putting in my two cents worth.

TV on Bebo
As I say on the clip, it's definitely an intriguing idea. If young people [Bebo demographic is 16-25] are not watching television because they are on social networking sites, then , hey, it's simple - we will take the television to them. Better still, let's make it about them, and while we are at it, let's use the opportunity to give main stream TV channels the opportunity to advertise their programmes on TV.

TVNZ Bebo Partnership
And it all fits in this case. Late last year , New Zealand government owned state broadcaster TVNZ and Bebo announced just this partnership. The deal offers advertisers access to a combined audience of 1.5 million New Zealanders, and Bebo users access to TVNZ premium content.

Bebo said at the time they chose TVNZ as its exclusive partner for selling display and video advertising in New Zealand, because it combined Bebo's global reputation and TVNZ's local strengths in content delivery.

The deal was also seen as a way of offering substantially improved interactive marketing opportunities through a 'one stop shop' - accessing mass users through social networking site Bebo, reaching targeted audiences through TVNZ.co.nz and using in-stream video advertising on TVNZ ondemand.

TVNZ GM Digital & Interactive Sales, Mark Copplestone, was also reported as saying Bebo provides a mine of information about users' behaviours and preferences."We've now got three platforms: a mass market, a targeted, and a video platform which enable advertisers to do one deal and reach the majority of New Zealanders online. The specific information that Bebo,TVNZ.co.nz, and TVNZ ondemand provide ensures that every single ad that we serve is targeted individually to a consumer." The release is here

Note the personalisation comment - this isn't scatter gun advertising as we currently experience it. Like all social networking ad spend - the advertising that hits the Bebo page is targeted to the known preferences the Bebo users have freely offered up.

TVNZ - private company - state broadcaster.
So , is this okay ? I guess it depends on your point of view, If you see TVNZ as just another main stream, albeit subsidised and state owned, commercial broadcaster, then I suspect you'll applaud the welcome evidence that TVNZ understands its future is internet based.

However, what's the story around their social and charter responsibilities? Do they take them with them, or leave them back in analogue land, and/or the yet to set the world on fire, Freeview?

If the former, what was the long term gain to be got from the $80 million subsidy TVNZ received to get Freeview launched and some new digital channels up and running? Also, what's the status of the assets they have built up over the last 40 years, including the archives of programmes?

Who owns them? If they start popping up on Bebo is that okay?

'As we journey to digital'
It's an interesting set of questions, and one that I rarely hear debated around the recent public forums that are attempting to define the future of New Zealand television and technology regulation .

Round these sector consultation tables I've heard people say things like, 'as we journey towards digital' as an apparent shorthand for the vexed question of when to turn off the analogue signal, as well as a total absence of interest in what might be happening out on that internet thing.

With this announcement TVNZ are telling all of us they are already there. Perhaps the folks running this alarmingly complex review of broadcasting decisions and regulations in New Zealand should take note.

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