Why virtual TV will be a success , but for different reasons

Eletronic Arts and Endemol announced a interesting partnership which will expand traditional TV programming to the virtual world, with the release next month of their Virtual Me platform

EA the company behind such classic hits such as the SIMS, Endemol is the company responsible for bring the ‘ reality ‘ TV show Big Brother which now has local variations in over 70 countries.

Taking the concept from MySpace participants are able to create virtual selves ( or aviatars as they are commonly known on the internet ) to compete and take part in variations of these hit TV shows – not in person, but with virtual representations of themselves.

I have to say it is interesting Endemols decision to partner with EA rather than leverage and already established community that is second life, however it shows an interesting transition of thought by expanding the tradional position of TV programming onto the Web.


Big Brother’s revenue comes from advertising ( not product placement ) and also mainly from the SMS voting that takes place to evict or keep the contestants ( know as housemates – ironically by the are at the end , they are anything but ).

But how would this work in the online space when this will not be an audience lead activity.

As yet there are no successful examples of pre-role ( the short advert placed before content of value / interaction ) on the web. Most is ignored through the ability to close or skip, the remainder is mostly irrelevant in either context or content, this therefore leaves :


Pure and simple association to raise awareness, but without engaging in dialogue with these participants is there any real value in what will be in the short term at least, a niche market ( in both volume and type of player )

In game – virtual brands, signage and clothing.

Levi’s is apparently doing a roaring trade in 501’s online, how long will this last ?

In this lean forward world where people are participating rather than sitting back and observing using traditional signage such as posters cannot prove to be effective, the ability to clutter this restricted space is also a threat and could all but trash this opportunity.

Also, while engrossed how much awareness does this bring ? Ask a professional footballer what adverts were around the side of the pitch while he was playing.

Payment upfront

This seems the more likely , in order to win / participate you pay. Pure and simple gambling , all be it wrapped up in a different wrapper.


On the internet there could be 1,000 big brother virtual shows happening at any one time - nothing is exclusive on the internet , it needs to work the numbers.
Combine this and the fact no matter how advanced the technology, people have a wonderful ability to express and behave in subtle ways which at the moment cannot be replicated online – I challenge anyone to be entertained for any length of time sitting watching Second Life.

The one thing the TV has over the internet is exclusivity and to a degree, authenticity.

Know your enemy

Generally game shows are run with a degree of ethics, although not perfect as Who wants to be a millionaire cheat Major Charles Ingram will contest, they do through the ability of “ seeing is believing “ remove some of the trust barriers the internet cannot break down .

Virtual icons

Above is a virtual concert with star performers U2, although the virtual Bono has some fancy dance moves I would not pay to watch these unanimated objects for any length of time.

Would you pay to watch a virtual game of soccer, would these virtual avitars be the next location for marketing and promotion deals, will we ever have a ( god forbid ) virtual David Beckham?

By making the barriers to entry too easy, by leveling the playing field, it removes the draw and passion along with the appreciation of the attributes that make these people great and thus the desire for us to watch and appreciate – this will therefore never be an audience led medium no matter how much the technology fools us visually, therefore the revenue generation models should reflect this.

As Buddy ( aka Syndrome ) said in the incredibles ‘ I'll sell my inventions so that *everyone* can have powers. *Everyone* can be Super!

And when everyone's Super... No one will be.

1 comment:

Trevor Attridge said...

We discussed the area of attentive media on the Millward Brown blog, Questions around the most effective way of engaging an online community which is seen as a niche vertical communcations channel. When Virtual Me was raised, and how can money be earned from the medium, the insightful response came :

Nigel Hollis Says:

May 3rd, 2007 at 10:14 am
Hi Trevor,
Virtual Me sounds fascinating. Now that sounds much more like a compelling experience. Familiar enough that most people can get their heads round it and fun enough to create stickiness.
Where does the money come from? I need to learn more about what they propose but it sounds like an ideal environment for the good old commercial break. If the content is compelling enough I suspect people will stick around to start the game over.

read more on :