Social networking site Bebo was a considerable innovator in Web TV shows from 2007-2009.
And all that innovation is likely to vanish as Bebo now faces being closed down.
- There were real-life games and interactivity in Lonelygirl15 spin-off KateModern (above).
- The Gap Year pioneered a travel show being produced globally virtually in real time.
- Teen drama Sofia’s Diary ran for three seasons, a transmedia production which was also the first Web show to transfer to UK broadcast television.
Then the commissioning slowly dried up, as advertising-funded branded entertainment productions became harder to launch with the onset of the recession.
It also seems that Bebo’s new owner, AOL, didn’t know how to run its acquisition, leading to the widely expected news today that Bebo is to be sold or even just closed down.
Our question: what will become of some of the UK’s earliest and most inventive Web shows?
One possibility is that the rights may revert to the independent production companies who made them.
Another is the actual footage and/or the shows’ formats may be sold to a TV distributor that would in turn aim to sell them into the international TV market at MIPTV. But it wouldn’t be surprising if AOL is simply to busy or indifferent to complete such a deal.
Alternatively, if Bebo is sold as a going concern, the shows should survive, at least in the short term. If it’s closed (and apparently there are potential US corporate tax advantages in just shutting it down outright), then the shows will disappear from the Internet completely.
What’s important here is not just the video footage being lost, but all the surrounding content (the Web sites that contain the shows), together with the totality of the Bebo members’ interactions – all those comments and Web cam contest entries.
A remote chance of saving this might be with an institution such as the BFI or the British Library stepping in to copy all the content over to another server.
But right now, if you want to view and interact with some essential media innovation, hurry over to Bebo and catch the shows while you still can:
Once the shows are gone, the only place you’ll be able to find a comprehensive creative and commercial account of them will be in our report UK Web Shows Now – see a free case study of The Secret World of Sam King.