Weekly Web Watch: TV-on-the-web show 'I Bet You Will' has PR potential

TV networks are investing hard to extend their existing franchises onto the Internet. That's why nearly every major show now has its own dedicated web site. And often these are not there simply to promote the show but to extend it and carry the experience into the online environment.

TV networks are investing hard to extend their existing franchises onto the Internet. That's why nearly every major show now has its own dedicated web site. And often these are not there simply to promote the show but to extend it and carry the experience into the online environment.

TV networks are investing hard to extend their existing franchises onto the Internet. That's why nearly every major show now has its own dedicated web site. And often these are not there simply to promote the show but to extend it and carry the experience into the online environment.

If the time spent watching television is being eroded by the Internet, then the networks have no choice but to get online if they want to hang onto their audiences. ABC wants the people who are captivated by Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? to stay with it when they get up off the couch and log onto the Internet. The same goes for Monday Night Football and a host of other shows. And it's also why you'll see those web sites being promoted like crazy on TV.

What you won't see much of is the TV networks trying to create online-only entertainment franchises. For that you'll have to look to start-ups like iFilm and AtomFilms, which stream short movies over the Web. There are also a host of short-form cartoon animation sites like Spumco.com, which is creating a whole new genre of quick-hit entertainment.

And then there's Morgan Spurlock, who may be about to test whether the TV-Web divide can successfully be crossed in the other direction. His company, The Consortium, produces a web game show called 'I Bet You Will,' which involves Spurlock and his cohorts persuading people on the street to humiliate themselves for the camera. You won't take off your clothes and allow some guy you've never met to paint you red? Well how about for dollars 100. No? dollars 200? Still no? How about dollars 300? Deal.

Spurlock, like many others, is hoping that web advertising will support his show. But unlike most others, he is hoping to take that advertising a step further by incorporating sponsors' products or names into his antics to produce 'advertainment,' not a whole lot different from that tried and trusted marketing tool, the PR stunt.

Spurlock's shows are short and often very funny - ideal for delivery over the Web. However, it is hard to imagine enough people spending enough time at www.ibetyouwill.com to make the enterprise financially worthwhile, even though The Consortium is very much a budget operation compared to the well-publicized, Hollywood-backed failures like Pseudo and Pop.com.

Do people really want this kind of throwaway entertainment when they are sitting at their desks, 18 inches from the computer screen? 'I Bet You Will' has a guerrilla edginess that fits well with the Web. But it also fits comfortably with familiar TV formats like the home video.

And that may just be where the key to success lies for Spurlock. His best chance, although he probably wouldn't admit it, may be to create enough buzz around the web show to get the attention of some of those old-style TV execs. And getting attention is something he is rather skilled at - so perhaps it's no coincidence that the first network called within a day of the show's debut on the Web.

If his current talks are successful, 'I Bet You Will' could be one of the first web shows picked up by TV. Sadly, however, that will not be a vindication of the Web as a medium for delivering entertainment. But it will be a perfect demonstration of the power of the Web as a platform for getting attention. - Stovin Hayter is editor-in-chief of Revolution. He can be contacted at stovin.hayter@revolutionmagazine.com



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