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Endemol brings reality to Facebook

Endemol's Digital Studios first created reality travel competition series The Gap Year last year for Bebo, an interactive first of its kind. This year, Endemol has taken it one step further by making it available on various social network sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube and Bebo once more. This move marked the first time a reality series 'aired' on Facebook. Pasa Mustafa, head of Endemol's digital studios, talks about the origins of the series and how one has to think differently about a social network reality series.
December 3, 2009

Endemol’s Digital Studios first created reality travel competition series The Gap Year last year for Bebo, an interactive first of its kind. This year, Endemol took it one step further by making it available on various social network sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube and Bebo once more.

Bebo and Endemol teamed up for the first series of The Gap Year last year when Bebo’s original content division gave Endemol a brief that asked for a show which could connect its global English-speaking audience. ‘We decided to run The Gap Year, where we plucked a traveler from six [English-speaking] countries – the UK, Ireland, America, New Zealand, Australia and Canada – and sent them traveling around the world for six months, each in different directions,’ says Pasa Mustafa, head of Endemol’s digital studios. ‘You’d have some relevance to each of the different markets’ audiences and travel [is] relevant to everyone, so this ticks a lot of boxes for Bebo.’

Mustafa says it was a different experience working on this project as television operates in the realm of localizing content in formats. ‘The challenge for us was in the modern world with the Internet, all of the audiences are pretty much global,’ he says.

In The Gap Year: Challenge New Zealand, contestants are chosen via the social networks and are sent off on their travels for four weeks. The current series has 20 official episodes, with lots of extra video content. Mustafa says it takes a very slim team to put the show together, with two producers/directors and an AP that are quickly shooting, editing with Final Cut on laptops, and uploading.

Endemol has now spread the second series of the show onto Bebo, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube and Facebook, as Mustafa says it’s important to give people the option to watch the show in the comfort of their own social network. ‘In this modern world with fragmented media and audiences, we really didn’t want to drag people to a social network that they didn’t already belong to, because the barriers to entry are so much bigger for them to come and watch the content without having to sign up,’ he says.

Mustafa has found that working on a reality travel series for Facebook requires a different way of thinking. The contestants of The Gap Year have their own Facebook profiles and Mustafa says Endemol tries to centralize the message of the show as much as possible. ‘We try and control how much they’re posting of the breaking news themselves so we can control the message out of the show page,’ he says.

Other considerations include knowing what time of day people are mostly using Facebook to figure out the best time to release content and when people are likely to share content. ‘All of those things change the way that we broadcast,’ he says. Endemol adds pictures, blogs, status updates and polls along with the videos to populate content throughout the day to keep bringing people back.

The Gap Year currently has over 3,000 fans who have become heavily involved on the Facebook profile. Without promotion, Mustafa says, the profile would get almost 200 comments on a status update, and people are actively chatting and meeting new ‘friends.’ ‘It’s truly social in that they’re enjoying the whole experience together,’ he says. ‘They’re not going off and watching it and coming back on [Facebook] to discuss it. They can watch it there, and they can discuss it there.’

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.

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