The strongest evidence of an industry taking something seriously is when it invests money in it, and this has started to happen with the media industry and digital video. Australian telco Optus has sponsored the creation of the second season of Forget the Rules, a digital series which consists of 30 three-minute episodes which will be broadcast on TV, mobile and the web. Optus put up “a big chunk of money” according to executive producer Jim Shomos, without which he couldn’t have made the show. Shomos, who also received funding from Film Victoria, said of the Optus investment “we believe it’s the largest investment in digital media in Australia”, and compared it to the first series of Forget the Rules which he had to fund himself. “It’s a great sign, that people are getting traditional investment for the shows.”
Optus will show the series on two of its cable TV channels and make them available free on mobile through its portal Optus Zoo. Shomos has signed international distribution deals with OHM for Europe as well as one specifically for Russia, and is in talks for France and Germany. It will also be shown on the web at Forget the Rules and on YouTube, MySpace and Facebook. The first season, back in 2005, was viewed by over 900,000 people, mostly on TV…but that was before the rise of the aforementioned social networking sites and Shomos expects the majority of viewers for the second series will be online. Naturally, mobile has come a long way in the past two years also.
Shomos thinks that short-form programming shown on multiple formats will be popular, and “if people connect to these shows then sponsors are going to want to be involved”. He thinks brand-funded content will drive a lot of this area, with brands working directly with content producers rather than through TV networks. Although making the video for all the formats means that mobile becomes the lowest common denominator (videos need to be brighter and have closer shots) Shomos claims it all comes back to story — viewers will accept lower production values if the story is strong enough.