LOS ANGELES (AdAge.com) — An ambitious web series, “If I Can Dream,” is launching in early 2010 with three distribution partners, two major sponsors and one goal — to do for web video what “American Idol” did for broadcast TV in 2002. One reason it has a chance to do that: 19 Entertainment’s Simon Fuller, creator of “American Idol,” is the brains behind it.
The series will chronicle five young Hollywood hopefuls who will live together, “Real World”-style, in a house in the Hollywood Hills. The names of the performers are expected to be announced just after Christmas. The footage will be streamed live, 24/7, at IfICanDream.com, while viewers can also interact with the show via Facebook and Twitter. “If I Can Dream” is sponsored by Ford Motor Co., also a launch sponsor of “Idol,” which will promote its forthcoming 2011 Ford Fiesta.
Coca-Cola, the beverage sponsor for “Idol,” is swapped out in favour of Pepsi, which will use the series to highlight its Refresh Everything Project, which will engage users in suggesting recipients for its multimillion-dollar grant program, launching in January.
Hulu, Clear Channel and MySpace are distributing “If I Can Dream,” and each will take unique roles in pushing out the series and its five stars. Hulu will stream one episode of highlights per week beginning in late February, where Pepsi and Ford will receive exclusive sponsorship. “If I Can Dream” will also be the first series to stream to select international audiences on Hulu.
MySpace is the exclusive social-networking platform for “If I Can Dream,” where fans can upload videos to audition for potential inclusion in the series. “If I Can Dream” will also have a dedicated MySpace page for fans to interact with the show and its cast members.
Clear Channel Radio is the exclusive radio partner, which brings its local on-air personalities and online network of 28 million unique monthly users, 8 million of whom stream audio and video content.
Evan Harrison, Clear Channel Radio’s exec VP-head of digital, told Ad Age that talks about the show’s creation with 19 Entertainment began about six months ago, with designs from both parties to introduce talent in a nontraditional way.
“Our feeling was we could collectively chart the show’s success with our on-air distribution and marketing and following it online. We are in the business of bringing that kind of content to the masses. We already do it for music, news, talk and sports, so this is a new opportunity for us to pair up with a top-notch creator and production company,” he said.
Ford and Pepsi are expected to be sponsors of Clear Channel’s content as well.
The pressure for all distributors of “If I Can Dream” is to help establish the web as a destination for original, appointment programming. Hulu has created an audience for watching broadcast programming online, with TV-like viewing numbers after its record October viewership. Clear Channel, a primarily on-air radio company until Mr. Harrison’s appointment in 2004, has created a bigger digital footprint in recent months, thanks to the growth of its iPhone and BlackBerry application iheartradio. MySpace, which is losing the social-networking share battle to Facebook, has focused on its MySpace Music. But its monthly uniques continue to plunge, from 60 million in July to 48.5 million in November, according to a Compete analysis.
Although Mr. Fuller has hinted that “If I Can Dream” could potentially include a TV component, the onus is on the web to make it work.
“The benchmark is to help break talent and create a new paradigm for doing that,” said Clear Channel’s Mr. Harrison.
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