Bebo has attracted hundreds of people to the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Bafta) HQ on London’s Piccadilly for the official launch of its Open Media platform…
– Celebrities: Ralph Little, Kate and the rest of the cast of Bebo’s KateModern interactive drama series spotted sipping an orange juice and eating a sausage-on-a-stick in the upstairs bar – crammed to the rafters.
– Heritage: In a theatre set for a long, big announcement, there’s a drumkit, piano and guitar on stage. Bebo staff and guests are sat in Bafta seats sponsored by the likes of Paul Macartney and Lucasfilm. A film introing Bebo on the big screen is voiced over by Little… grand claims about the social potential of social networking. Says Little to the audience of media folk: “Come as you are to our audience of 40 million” – it is “a whole new way to experience media”.
– “Act two”: Bebo international president Joanna Shields takes the stage: “The spectrum of social networking is moving way beyond applications and utilities… we’re becoming a different kind of network.” “Up until now, social networking was act one – we’re going to introduce to you act two.” “Bebo is different.” Shields says partner companies can control delivery of their videos 100 percent. She said there is “a sea change in how people are interacting with media”.
– Interlude: Upcoming north London songwriter Remi Nicole walks on stage, picks up the guitar and performs her track Rock N Roll.
– Turner: Representatives of media partners take the stage to explain their rationale in coming on board. Turner Broadcasting System European commercial director Casey Harwood said Joost, YouTube and Dailymotion were “interesting”, “but this is much more fo a community, and more like a magazine”. Its Nuts TV and Adult Swim brands are part of Open Media. “That, for Turner is probably it now for the forseeable future in terms of the bases we’re going to cover and it’s about making it work now” (that is – no more digital distribution deals).
– iPlayer: BBC Future Media & Technology business development head Jane Weedon says the BBC’s involvement is about “making our content available in as many places as possible”. She revealed there will be a full launch” of its iPlayer “around Christmas time”, after which “a fully integrated iPlayer” will be part of the Bebo environment. Sounds like the parallel deal to place inbound iPlayer links on.
– Endemol: Endemol’s Peter Cowley said Bebo are “the only people who understand this” (how to present sharable, interactive web TV) – and the BBC’s Weedon nodded. He said KateModern’s product placement business model “is not entirely legal on UK TV”, but that advertisers “are thinking wider than straight display advertising”. Cowley envisages tapping the community to help produce TV shows (perhaps as MySpace has done with My Movie Mashup).
– Facebook: A threat from Facebook? Shields said: “Facebook had become a dominant communications utility – I liken Facebook to a Blackberry – Bebo is much more a platform for self-expression – I liken that to an iPod Touch. They’re not mutually exclusive – in fact, most of my friends have both a Blackberry and an iPod Touch.”
– Exclusivity: I asked how distributors like Bebo can differentiate themselves from the next man when the imperative for content makers is to show often the same clips on multiple different platforms. Shields pointed to Bebo’s original KateModern, Gap Year and Sofia’s Diary productions, while Turner’s Casey said his company often did more than just repackaging.
– Cullum: And with that, we find out what the piano was for. Jamie Cullum is wheeled out to close the show with two of his charming songs “about drugs and girls”.
Final thought: So what does Open Media amount to? Bebo has essentially won a series of video distribution deals by offering to integrate the viewing experience in a social network environment. Another footnote: whilst the first phase of broadcasters using the baseline model can keep 100 percent of any ad revenue, later, producers will also have the option of paying for spotlight promotion around Bebo and using Bebo’s own video player with Bebo’s own video ads, either as a flat fee or with a rev share.