If it’s good enough for the Internet, is it good enough for TV?

In his own words, October Films' Creative Director, Adam Bullmore, shares his experience of bringing user generated content to the TV screen with realscreen. Chasing Internet celebrities, dealing with copyright issues and slogging through clip after clip for RudeTube was harder than one might think.
April 30, 2009

RudeTube started as a conversation with Liam Humphreys, commissioning editor for Features at Channel 4 in the UK. We’d made a successful show for him, Celebrity Sex Tapes Unwound, and thought we could bring a similar quirky and humorous approach to another Internet phenomena – user generated uploads.

First challenge: tracking down the genuine copyright holders and ensuring their clips were legally safe. Second challenge: choosing clips that would work in a TV format – a top 50 countdown.

Licensing the clips proved to be expensive, not because of the fees, but because of the time required to find the owners and check out the consents.

With over 100 million clips on YouTube alone, selecting the big hitters with the inherent mass appeal needed for TV was the biggest editorial challenge. The size of our audiences (3.2m and 3.8m at 10pm on Channel 4) suggests we got it more right than wrong, but it was a daunting prospect for the researchers and producers, especially when the commissioning editor, the presenter and even your partner’s mum can email in their own must have ‘rushes’ on a daily basis.

Before first transmission, there was the inevitable concern that the magic of the Internet wouldn’t transfer across to TV. Once that paranoia had passed, we tried to work out what we’d done right. Program post-mortems are an inexact science at best, but shooting interviews with the content creators made the show feel like it was embracing the world of UGC rather than just raiding it for cheap laughs. That, and cutting the clips to enhance their viewer value, be it OMG shock factor, or cute kiddie humor, also meant that TV was offering viewers something that the Internet wasn’t.

A series was commissioned by E4 after the success of the RudeTube prototype. It also worked and for a much younger demographic, bringing in big audiences week after week. That consistency of performance encouraged us to produce an international series of Rude Tube (8×30′) with RDF Rights.

There aren’t many broadcasters who haven’t looked at using UCG to make popular TV, but the costs are surprisingly high. With RudeTube International we are able to offer exactly that kind of programming at a very competitive cost and in a proven, audience friendly format. So far, it looks to be working. Channel 4 has just commissioned three more hour long shows and the international series is selling strongly.

About The Author
Daniele Alcinii is a news reporter at realscreen, the leading international publisher of non-fiction film and television industry news and content. He joins the rs team with journalism experience following a stint out west with Sun Media in Edmonton's Capital Region, and communications work in Melbourne, Australia and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at @danielealcinii.