Simon Fuller, the creator of the multimillion dollar American Idol TV franchise, is betting on the Internet for his latest venture -- a multimedia interactive reality show that debuts on video-viewing site Hulu.com on Tuesday.
If I Can Dream follows five aspiring artists bidding for stardom in Hollywood in what is billed as a groundbreaking marriage of social networking and the fast-growing market for television shows streamed on the Internet.
It will also be the first recurring show available to select international audiences on Hulu -- the joint venture between NBC Universal, News Corp and Walt Disney that allows viewers to stream TV shows over the Web.
In what sounds like a cross between Idol and Big Brother, 30-minute weekly episodes on Hulu will track the triumphs and set-backs of two actresses, a musician, an actor and a model looking to break into show business.
Viewers will also get unedited access, 24/7, to their lives through 50 cameras in their shared Hollywood Hills house on the www.ificandream.com website. Fans also can interact with the five through texts, blogs, MySpace, Twitter and Facebook.
As the five artists make it or break it, the public can choose new hopefuls who have auditioned via MySpace.
Fuller, the British media mogul whose 19 Entertainment managed The Spice Girls pop group and soccer player David Beckham, called the venture the dawning of a new age.
The next frontier (in entertainment) is the video world of authentic real time interaction, he said in a statement.
Almost 178 million U.S. Internet users watched online video in December 2009, when viewing reached a record 33.2 billion videos, according to digital measurement company comScore.
Fuller's vision has won the backing of blue-chip business partners Pepsi and Ford Motors, although long-form standalone video on the Internet has yet to fully establish itself.
One of the future directions of programing is allowing consumers to interact through social media, said Jon Gibs, vice president of online media for Nielsen. Whether or not we are in the market yet for a truly successful, purely online program is a bit different.
The toughest challenge will be promoting If I Can Dream in the crowded Hulu market, which saw more than one billion video streams in December, according to comScore.
The five artists have visited Sydney, Berlin, Rio De Janeiro, Tokyo and Taipei to promote the show in the past few weeks and Fuller has joined forces with Clear Channel Radio to further boost audience awareness.
But a few days ahead of the launch, the If I Can Dream websites and videos had attracted only a handful of views.
If it's not strongly promoted to a large core audience, it will be problematic, particularly if you have to get people to change their behavior, Gibs said.
(Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)