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07/07/2006

Nobody's Watching on YouTube / Archers top of the BBC downloads: This week's PR Business column

Sit-com creator tries to do an "Arctic Monkeys" with his pilot

In another example of online communities' ability to affect mainstream media, the massively popular YouTube may see a rejected US sitcom pilot dusted off and commissioned by a major studio. Or so its creator hopes...

The (almost) ironically named "Nobody's Watching" was a pilot for a comedy from the creator of "Scrubs" and "Spin City" was tested 18 months ago with sample audiences. Warner Brothers, who had commissioned the pilot, decided it was a no go after feedback that the plot was confusing.

Then some helpful soul posted the pilot episode on to YouTube and it picked up some viewers. 300,000 for the first of three ten minute segments. Although less than a third have made it as far as watching the rest of the episode, which though a lot is not necessarily a runaway success by YouTube standards.

The American TV test audience screening system has often been derided by writers and blamed for a preponderance of mediocrity on US TV networks. It may be that communities like YouTube will offer a new avenue for seeing if more original or challenging shows can find their audience.

It may also be an avenue for producers and directors to build a cult following for a show before it has been commissioned by a studio. Think of YouTube doing for TV and films what MySpace did for the Arctic Monkeys…

An alternative scenario is the Sandi Thom Strategem – where cynical TV executives pretend to reject a show, only to have it gain a massive set of viewers on YouTube and then turned into a show within weeks to capitalise on the online buzz and reflected mainstream media hype.

Maybe I'm just getting cynical?

Dum Dee Dum Dee Dum Dee Dum…

Meanwhile in the UK we're happy to use the wonders of the web to keep alive a show that's more than 60 years old: The Archers.

In March the programme broke the Beeb's records for a show being listened to via its website with 756,730 people logging on to hear the travails of Ambridge's residents.

Not that I'm a fan, but it's definitely down to the fact that March marked a highpoint in the tug-of-love battle to prove the parenthood of little George between brothers William and Ed. That and the sale of Grey Gables. It's all going on down there, I tell you.

The BBC says that 4.5 million people are already downloading podcasts from its trial of 50 programmes. Director General Mark Thompson announced a service called MyBBCradio this week that would make it easier for people to compile a "playlist" of favourite programmes from across its stations.

Hillary Clinton's blogger-in-chief

More news on the political blogging front: Hillary Clinton has appointed a blogger to her communications team for her bid to become a candidate for the US presidency. Peter Dauo, runs an aggregator site called The Dauo Report - part of online magazine Salon.com. - which draws together blog posts from across the political spectrum.

Nat Mags' digital ambitions

Another week, another announcement from a UK publisher about its online strategy. This week Nat Mags has announced that it is starting up a new digital division. It is drawing its inspiration from its own Rodale's Runners World, which has successfully established a community of its own, introducing message boards and podcasts.

The publisher has also made noises about being up for acquiring new online properties. Hark the sound of UK new media indies cleaning up their offices in case they get visitors.

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