DIY Internet entertainment readying to take on TV giants

DIY Internet entertainment readying to take on TV giants

by Audrey Stuart2 hours, 51 minutes ago

Everyone's doing it, and often well enough to worry the professionals. Home-made video clips, amateur films and would-be musicians are transforming the Internet into an entertainment force set to take on the TV giants.

That was the challenge laid down at the MIPCOM annual audiovisual trade show here by the new breed of fast-growing Internet media companies that are threatening to radically change the face of television.

MySpace, the world's largest social networking website with some 110 million members worldwide, declared its intention to move into the TV space now it has built up massive communities, or passion centres, around content that people can share their friends.

"We started with music, and the next step is film; TV is part of that landscape," David Fischer, who heads up the European operations of MySpace, told at conference here.

Worryingly for the traditional TV companies, many of the millions of people spending their time on the social networking and video sites are not college-age kids, but a lot older.

Some 35 percent of MySpace users are 30 years or age and even older outside the United States, Fischer revealed.

MySpace is not the only new boy on the block aiming to get a slice of the television action.

Giant Internet search engine AOL has been building up its television content over the past year, mostly in the kids' space.

And Google stole the limelight Monday when it paid a whacking 1.65 billion US dollars to buy video entertainment site YouTube.

The new digital media companies also believe they can make in a big splash in the TV scene without linking up with any of the big broadcasters.

None of the big TV companies have been successful in the last four to five years, claimed Simon Assad, co-founder and joint CEO of Heavy Inc., that has built up a huge male following on its Heavy.com site.

The big broadcasters such as America's NBC Universal that is entering the Internet space with female-targeted web network "iVillage" and ABC with its ABC.com space are starting to embrace these new people-empowered trends, Assad said.

But the ones who don't adapt to the changes sweeping the entertainment scene will face big problems.

People today want to be able to express themselves and choose and sometimes create their own entertainment content, the MIPCOM panellists stressed.

"User generated content is an opportunity to really engage with your audience as opposed to traditional TV where the executives decide," Assad told AFP in an interview.

"The beautiful thing about the Internet is that it provides a great forum for people to express their feelings and the passions they are experiencing," he said.

"But content still needs to be great. Whether we create it or the user creates it is immaterial," Mark Goldman who heads up the Current TV station and website set up by former American vice-president Al Gore told conference participants.

Only a very small amount of the mass of people-generated content out on the Internet today manages to float to the top.

People who dream up some really top-notch content are also starting to get paid for it although the sums are still usually pretty small.

Google's Patrick Walker said they are going to allow new, unsigned musicians to sell their music directly and set their own price.

Piracy on the Internet networking sites, including MySpace and YouTube and others, is a reality and a real concern for many film, TV and music companies who see their highly expensive products getting ripped off.

But all the main players are now seriously trying to change, or at least reduce, this problem.

Expanding their presence internationally is the next step.

Content TV has just taken its first step outside of the American market to set up operations in Britain and Ireland.

Heavy's Assad is also firmly on the move and some of the website's somewhat racy content like its gorgeous pin-up "Angel's" or "Last night's party" videos don't look like being a problem either.

"I thought there would be issues about some of Heavy's content in markets like the Middle East and Asia but I've had lots of interest from these markets here this week and people are telling me there's no problem," he told AFP.

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