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
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.