Days after ManiaTV made the surprising announcement  that it plans to phase out “user-generated” video, NBC’s DotComedy swung the other way, encouraging users to submit “Viewer Made” videos that, if featured, will be licensed for cash.  Meanwhile, at the User Generated TV summit panelists distinguished between professional content, user generated content and SPUG (semi-professional user generated content).

Does it matter? 


Advertisers are still reluctant to place products against hand-held videos of dogs riding skateboards but, especially for those who take video production seriously, the “semi-professional” qualifier is  pejorative, and it negates the power of the internet-television revolution which creates more opportunity for more video producers.

The approaches of ManiaTV and DotComedy aren’t actually that different — they are both commissioning video content from talented producers; they’re just couching the process with different terms.  CurrentTV ( page) has been licensing works from its viewers since its launch in August 2005. 

As video costs decline and the channels of distribution become limitless, video becomes analogous with text.  TV will vary in style, length, format and quality to the same degree as the written word.  What media companies misrepresent with monikers like users and SPUG is that open distribution empowers an entirely new middle class of professional producers.  The Hollywood status-quo, marked by an overabundance of talent clamoring to be seen on limited outlets, is fading fast.  As media companies begin to work with this new class of producers–rather, as they realize that working with them is essential to their continued relevance–they ought regard them with deserved respect. 

DotComedy and ManiaTV are both on the right track by actually treating these producers as professionals, however they spin it.

(This image from In-Stat illustrates the relationship of users to content services)

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