John McCann

Participatory TV

In Long Tail, Television on February 16, 2006 at 2:47 pm

Robin Good writes about Participatory TV in his blog:

“I am just out of a live participatory television program, a pioneering and successful experiment by Italian independent and alternative grassroots satellite + online TV station Nessuno.tv. During the live TV show which went live between 9 and midnight last night, the show hosts showcased video news shorts edited by different contributors, while interviewing individuals in the studio, open for anyone to visit and sit-in during any of the live programming. But the most interesting thing was that for the first time Nessuno.TV pioneered the intervention of home-based individuals connected to the show via webcam.”

He participated in the show and calls it a bridging of traditional a TV station with the emerging paradigm of a participatory channel. But a bridge to where? He offers four characteristics of true participatory television station: TV that goes to the streets, live, focused and generated by street reporters.

His thesis: For live TV to be interesting, it has to be about interesting events that are happening now. But therein lies the problem: there are just not enough interesting events occurring throughout the day to support very many television stations. We can see this with CNN, which has a pretty small audience most of the time but one that explodes when there is a crisis. Daily stories do not attract large audiences; the occasional big ones do.

He says:

“From highly trafficked street crossings, to the Parliament, to the entrance of hospital or to the exit gate of the stadium, street reporters have a huge amount of great, true stories to capture and bring back 24 hours a day.”

There are stories to be told at such venues but I doubt that many of them would be sufficiently interesting to attract an audience away from the wide array of videos on demand that will be available.

I imagine that participatory TV success will be in the Long Tail, where Robin Good’s four criteria make a lot of sense.

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