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Gibson Group: let’s do the mash

It’s been a longer and windier road than anticipated to the launch of Gibson Group’s Mash Pit Comedy website.

When the project first received NZ On Air funding, back in April last year, mashing wasn’t actually a part of the plan. What was part of the plan was a website to which users could upload amusing content, the best of which would then be used in a TV show – a variation on the Funniest Home Videos format, if you like.

Gibson Group producer, Bevin Linkhorn, brought in a number of freelance web developers on contract to put the site together. As is the way with things webby, they don’t always go to plan (he wrote with no small sense of irony).

One of the early challenges was to ‘reverse engineer’ from the standards of broadcast TV to the capabilities of the internet, including broadband speeds. The dual aim was to create an experience that was enjoyable and acceptable to contributors on the website and to deliver content that would be acceptable to TV viewers, rather than, say, the quality of viewing experience delivered on the mercifully short-lived 2 Tube.

Along the way, the idea of allowing site users to mash content joined the mix, which threw a whole new load of challenges into the mix. One option considered was whether to offer editing tools on the site that users could use online, but it was felt that broadband speeds weren’t up to making that an experience that users would stick around for.

Users can download from the site and edit on their own equipment, whether that’s the software that comes with Windows PCs and Macs or more sophisticated programmes, for those who happen to have a copy of Final Cut Pro.

The outcome depends on the amount of interest the site generates and the quality of product it delivers, but the project is an interesting one. It’s a natural progression for Bevin, who created and produced the 40×2 minute made for mobile My Story in 2007.

It’s fair to say that the project has taken longer than anticipated to get to see the light of day. Although the project was funded via NZOA’s digital partnership fund before the law change that got rid of the need for a broadcast outcome, Bevin’s very happy that the show will be screened on Prime. He cited a number of benefits for the project as a whole, including reaching a wider audience and being able to create content for a wider audience.

Some of the content will be better suited to TV than the web and vice versa.

This week Prime begins promos for the show, designed to drive people to the website to create content. Bevin will monitor use of the site over the next couple of months to enable him to make a judgement call on when the site is likely to generate enough content of sufficient quality to make the four programmes for the first series.

Best guess at the moment is around six months, which would allow the programme to screen in the first half of next year.

Although the site has been up and running for less than a week, the numbers are encouraging.

Already, the site has received 1,385 visits from 867 discrete users. The Facebook community already has 157 fans. As word of mouth and Prime TV promos kick in to spread the word, Bevin expects a lot more growth, but has no idea how popular the site might become.

Have a look or have a go at Mash Pit Comedy.

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