What do you do when you have a video library of a million clips, and no place to put them? This was the question that Vin Di Bona faced in 2010. Di Bona was the producer for America’s Funniest Home Videos, which was entering its 20th season that year. Over the duration of the show’s long run, every schnook hoping to have his 15 minutes of TV fame had sent in a homemade video to the show, creating a daunting collection over one million strong. Di Bona, along with Bruce Gersh, decided it was time to put these funnies to good use, and that year the pair formed Fishbowl Worldwide Media, a company dedicated to spreading out the breadth of AFHV’s goofy library over several channels (in addition to creating a slate of successful online video and traditional entertainment programs).
Now, that collection of User Generated Content (or UGC) is acting as a reminder that while original programming is an up-and-coming field in the online video, some sectors of the Internet are still ruled by the cuteness of our pets and the foibles of our kids. “When you think about it,” says David Beebe, Vice President at Fishbowl, “America’s Funniest Home Videos is really ‘YouTube before YouTube’. It’s the original premium UGC brand and it’s not slowing down. We get thousands of new submissions a week…so the library is constantly renewed with fresh and relevant content.”
Fishbowl has turned that content into several shows, including CuteWinFail and PETSAMI. Each of these channels operates on the principle that, while YouTube may have a grand future, the UGC that helped make the website a success will always hold it up.
“Premium UGC content works well online because it’s short, fun and funny snackable content,” explains Beebe, “As we see more and more people watch more videos via mobile, I believe our content will become even more popular.” The appeal can’t be denied: those two channels have a combined 70 million views, and CuteWinFail even has some degree of engagement with its 250,000+ subscribers. The YouTube success of UGC has even reached Peru, where a Spanish-language version of CuteWinFail has been launched as well.
YouTube is highly invested in original content, but Beebe doesn’t believe that content creators can slow down the strength of premium UGC:
Programmers really need to spend more time looking at and understanding consumer behavior and desires as it relates to digital video before they start producing content of any type. I think producers get too caught up in making content they themselves like, and don’t put enough strategic thought behind it. Just because you make it, doesn’t mean they’ll come, at least on the Internet.
The Internet could have spelled the end for AFHV, but the show is now as popular as ever heading into its 23rd season. It’s still being broadcast on ABC and its clip network has finally found a home on the Internet. Beebe is certainly optimistic about the potential future success of the show’s online presence: “It’s a great time to be working in this space as technology and content converges and we figure out what to develop, what to produce, where to distribute it, and make money along the way.”