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NATPE 2008: Finds Video Shorts Work Best

Don't look for repurposed half-hour TV shows or original Internet productions of that length on MySpace anytime soon. Even 8-minute episodes are challenged to find an audience among video snackers at the social networks site, said Jeff Berman, executive vice president, content and marketing for the site.

Berman said he's looking for serial programming of three- to five-minute segments, ala the Roommates serial. That's considered an Internet success, drawing integrated advertising support from Ford Motor Co. It also had a community built around it, as each character in the series had their own MySpace page, where the characters interacted with MySpace members, he said. One correspondent, Pauly Shore, hit on one of the characters and was later cast in the webisode, a stunt which further built buzz, Berman during a presentation at the NATPE exhibition.

Conversely, the web series Quarterlife from TV producers Marshall Hershkovitz and Ed Zwick has deeply passionate fans, but Berman said he thought the eight-minute length is a “challenge.”

TV producers will be more likely to use the Internet to introduce characters who might become the center of a future television show. He used as an example The Simpsons, the characters from which were introduced as interstitials in the The Tracey Ullman Show before they had their own show.

Asked the inevitable question about the Writers Guild of America strike, Berman said MySpace TV had had no significant uptick in use as a result of the strike. And he added that "very accomplished creators" showed interest in producing for MySpace way before the strike, so those contacts haven't changed significantly, either.

Despite the focus on digital streaming over over-the-air television, Berman was not sounding the death knell for TV.

"Anyone who thinks the Internet will kill television is ignorant of history," he said. “I want TV back,” he said, expressing a wish for an end of the strike.