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ABC News Employs Citizen Producers for iCaught

ABC News is attempting to marshal the buzz factor of user-generated video content in its latest Primetime limited-run series iCaught.

Premiering Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET, the newsmagazine hour hung on the grainy, sometimes out-of-focus amateur videos that made YouTube a peerless part of the zeitgeist.

The first installment recounts the Battle of Kruger, a harrowing skirmish between a pride of hungry lions and a herd of water buffalo recorded by a tourist at Africa’s Kruger National Park. It has been viewed more than 7 million times, making it one of the most popular videos in Internet history. In the debut installment, iCaught host Bill Weir talks to the tourist who filmed the Kruger video.

Tuesday’s premiere also looks at the trend on wedding dance videos, where couples stage elaborate numbers which they post online.

The meat of the show, says executive producer David Sloan, is the stories behind the videos.

“Anyone can go to these video hosting sights and see a clip,” says Sloan. “We really take the video snippet and we report it out.”

There also will be hidden camera segments a la Primetime’s recent “What Would You Do” series which had John Quiñones as a broadcast news version of Allen Funt, popping out from behind the proverbial curtain to tell diner patrons, for instance, that they were being tortured by egregiously misbehaving children as part of an ABC News social experiment.

News divisions have been especially well-positioned to harness the ubiquity of video cameras. CNN’s iReport and Fox News Channels uReport have utilized citizen journalists on big breaking stories including the Virginia Tech shootings, the floods in Kansas and last week's bridge collapse in Minneapolis. It’s the ultimate in interactive television.

“Everyone is developing a portal by which their viewers can get in the game and can influence content,” says Sloan. “It’s an opportunity for anyone with a computer to be a producer.” says Sloan.

Sloan admits that the series, which is scheduled to run Tuesday’s at 10 p.m. ET through Sept. 11, is a bit of a gamble.

“It’s always scary when you commit to something weekly,” he says. “You’ve got to deliver. But we really feel like we’re on to something here.”