"Canadian Idol," Canadas counterpart to "American Idol," is always looking for creative ways to enhance its relationship with the audience (both on the set and at home), not to mention opportunities to create potential new revenue streams.
iUpload understood this last year when executives of the Burlington, Ontario, company approached CTV, the network that broadcasts "Canadian Idol," about using blogs to give viewers a venue to voice their thoughts and Opinions about the show.
The idea certainly had merit, the executives thought. With reality television programs such as Idol, marketing clout—and advertising revenue—comes with demonstrating not just viewer ratings but also viewer participation.
iUpload officials werent voted off after their first presentation, but their idea was certainly met with skepticism from Wendy Smith, senior Web producer at CTV.ca, and other CTV executives who were concerned about exposing the Idol brand to blogs.
"We talked about having blogging last year, but we turned it down. We didnt even give it a second thought," said Smith.
Officials at CTV, based in Scarborough, Ontario, would very much like to involve viewers more in the shows format and find ways to bring the audience into every step of the process, Smith said. But, she said, there was lots of apprehension at the network about opening the site to bloggers. CTV officials initially dismissed the idea out of hand because they were worried about getting tawdry entries, she said.
"The Idol brand is so sensitive that we couldnt risk having profanity or anything of that nature coming up on our site. The whole blogging concept was scary for myself and my superiors, and we didnt want to go there," Smith said.
David Carter, vice president of strategy at iUpload, attributed such concerns to a lack of understanding of blogs at the time.
"Blogs have certainly had a higher profile since the last U.S. election," Carter said. "A year ago, we did not have as many past successes to demonstrate, and it was a hard message to deliver to CTV senior management."
While blogs might have seemed unattractive to CTV, Smith said the networks Web site, CTV.ca, had been using moderated message forums to provide an outlet for viewers to communicate their views about the shows. She said the exchanges sometimes got very ugly, with members routinely using profanity—so much so that she had to employ five moderators to ensure that message threads didnt get out of hand and to delete inappropriate material before it reached the site.
Beginning next month, CTV will give bloggers the ability to offer their views about the show. "Each person will have their own space, and they can come back and actually comment on the show as the show plays out and the competition goes on," Smith said. "We will still have the administration that we can accept or reject blogs, but I believe the plan is to just let them loose. We are going to have to moderate it to see how it goes."
With all the problems related to message forums and the time it took to edit and review the pictures, Smith and CTV were beginning to open up to the idea of an alternative. In addition, blogs had gained a higher profile in the publics consciousness. As a result, when iUpload approached CTV executives again last year, Smith and her colleagues came away impressed—not only with the product but also with the pitch.
Carter also sensed a sea change in the attitude about blogs from CTV personnel.