Marc Scarpa, veteran director and executive producer of live interactive media events, has launched the first of it's kind social TV network with Comcast Xfinity On Demand, called VidBlogger Nation, that brings popular local YouTube talent into the living room of millions. VidBlogger Nation is shot on location by local video bloggers in 10 key markets, including Philadelphia, New Jersey, New England, Atlanta, South Florida, Michigan, Denver, Portland, Sacramento, and San Francisco.
The episodes are short 3-5 minute narrative shorts by unique voices from across the country who share colorful stories of people, places and things in their city from a first-person perspective. The VidBlogger Nation roll-out will initially include three full seasons for each market, with over 240 episodes available so far on Comcast Xfinity On Demand local, and they're in the process of shooting 120 more. Both Comcast On Demand Local and SimplyNew Studios will consider further markets after the initial run concludes.
I caught up with Scarpa on his recent visit to San Francisco where he met with several of his local VidBloggers, including Zennie Abraham (Zennie62
"We're using a lot of social platforms in order to engage conversation in and around the content that we're creating. We're using Facebook, YouTube and obviously Twitter, in conjunction with distributing the content over Comcast On Demand. So really, what distinguishes us from other types of networks is, we're not a technology platform, we're really focused on that conversation between the video bloggers themselves, and of course, amongst their audience."
Scarpa says that they look at their audience more as followers and friends than as viewers – which is a traditional television approach – to the point that the VidBloggers are really involved with the audience on an honest and genuine way.
"Because it's their voice that's being carried throughout the network. It's their points of view, it's their opinions, it's their stories, it's their experiences that they're sharing with that audience, and the audience actually helps them create their content."
Scarpa says it becomes social by engaging the viewers to become involved in the programing decisions, and more importantly, they then become invested in the lives of the video bloggers themselves. This new approach transforms the traditional audience into collaborative partners in a participatory media experience.
What also makes VidBlogger Nation unique from traditional broadcast television, says Scarpa, is that they went out and found people who who had stories to tell, as opposed to doing a casting session that would have attracted mainly actors.
"We went and we sought tastemakers, and voices, and personalities, and we actually searched around 3,000 to 4,000 videos in the course of a 4-week period. Then narrowed it down to roughly 100 people, 10 per market, and out of that 10, we then narrowed it down to 1 per market."
The VidBlogger Nation network talent includes:
- Zennie Abraham, Atlanta, Georgia
- Sarah Austin, San Francisco, California
- Jessica Berry, Philadelphia
- Jen Friel, New England
- Rocco Leo Gaglioti, New Jersey
- Sacha Heppell, Denver, Colorado
- Jenny Scordamaglia, South Florida
- Ann Spade, Sacramento, California
- Tony Thomas, Portland, Oregon
- Jeffrey Wisenbaugh, Michigan
Scarpa says their VidBloggers are already talented producers and great storytellers who shoot and edit their own videos. He is working closely with each host to supply them with editorial and technical support, content production and legal issues.
"We wanted to create a social TV look-and-feel that emanated from the web, with a style that fit the locale of the vidblogger's world, and enabled them to be natural hosts for stories that were authentic to them," says Scarpa. "As television moves toward an all-IP universe, the grammar of what we watch on t.v. will have more to do with an emerging, and immersive, web presence. Vidblogger Nation is the first step toward blurring the boundaries between web TV and cable TV."
In this interview with Zennie Abraham, (who represents Atlanta), Scarpa says that VidBlogger Nation is not video blogging:
"I've always been a big fan of this school of improvisational story-telling, from the reactionary film movement to the John Cassavetes-style of film-making. What really captivated with early independent film and early web videos was this notion of 'first-person perspective,' where an individual is empowered to tell their story, there way, and how they want to. Web video has taken that to a whole new level.”
Zennie agrees and says the experience has been tremendous for him:
"What I've learned could fill a book, but the basic lesson is that the creative mind can be improved if only it's working with other creative people. I love learning from Marc and the other vloggers. Frankly, I'm used to just letting it rip with a camcorder, where with VidBlogger Nation, I've become much better at telling a story with the camcorder."
Zennie is one of YouTube's first Partners, an iReport contributor before it was purchased by CNN and blogs at Zennie62Media.com. Read more of his article here: Comcast VidBlogger Nation New Video TV Network | City Brights: Zennie Abraham | an SFGate.com blog
VidBlogger Nation is a product of Scarpa's SimplyNew Studios which has long track record of producing and pioneering the live participatory programming genre for television, the web, fashion and music industry, and even the White House with the "Townhall with President Clinton" (now part of the permanent collection of the Clinton Presidential Library).
Scarpa says that the overall goal of VidBlogger Nation is to have a new forum for very talented people, like Zennie and his fellow VidBloggers, who have a voice and help them extend beyond the web into a new market, and a traditional broadcast environment like Comcast provides access to 60 million homes.
Get social with VidBlogger Nation
About Simplynew Studios
Simplynew Studios is a leading developer of participatory media programming and productions, including live television, web, mobile, and on-demand broadcast events. Renowned director-producer Marc Scarpa, a pioneer in the industry who is founding chair of the Producers Guild of America New Media Council East, established the company in 2001. Based in both Los Angeles and New York, Simplynew Studios specializes in multi-platform productions, and have delivered groundbreaking content for customers including Comcast, Sony Music, MySpace, Fox, The Recording Academy (GRAMMY awards), Marc Jacobs International, Woodstock '99 and the White House among others.
- Comcast VidBlogger Nation New Video TV Network | City Brights: Zennie Abraham | an SFGate.com blog
- 'VidBlogger Nation' aims to leverage best of Internet video, traditional TV, says show creator
- New Social TV Network "Vidblogger Nation" Rolls Out On VOD
- Q+A: Marc Scarpa, Executive Producer, VidBlogger Nation | Studio Daily
- VIDBLOGGER NATION, FIRST NATIONAL SOCIAL TV NETWORK, ROLLED OUT BY COMCAST ON DEMAND LOCAL AND SIMPLYNEW STUDIOS