Locally, you can be next TV star

Published April 25, 2007

Your tube meets YouTube today when Bright House Networks debuts its newest video-on-demand service: YOU on Demand.

"You read all about YouTube and everybody's copying it on the Web, but we think what people want is on TV," said Elliott Wiser, Bright House Networks' vice president of news programming.

While YouTube has popularized viewer-submitted content online, Bright House's Tampa Bay on Demand channel will make similar content available to its digital cable subscribers, who can call up the service with their remote controls. Not as far-ranging as the Internet variety, user-generated videos on the channel will appeal to area viewers, Wiser said.

"The opportunities are infinite," he said. The new videos will be available at Tampa Bay on Demand Ch. 340 on Bright House cable.

Unlike YouTube, viewers cannot submit material online. Viewers are invited to mail in their own DVDs or VHS tapes in one of three initial categories: Cool Kids, Pet Performances and Funny Videos. As content comes in, the channel's staff will likely create more categories.

"The viewers are going to be driving this channel," said Linda Granger, director of marketing for Bay News 9, Bright House's local cable news service.

"They can take something and run with it."

Verizon has begun similar offerings with its partnership with Revver.com, a Web site similar to YouTube, said spokesman Bob Elek. Verizon wireless subscribers can get Revver videos on their phones now, and Internet subscribers can get them through Verizon online. Revver videos will be available on Verizon's fiber-optic television service this year.

Verizon also launched a community news channel in Washington, D.C., this year called FiOS1, which features user-submitted journalism from "citizen VJs," Elek said.

A similar channel with citizen reports will be available in the Tampa Bay market within the year.

Bright House first began featuring user-submitted video on demand earlier this year, showcasing music videos from local bands. When that proved popular, the company expanded a service which helps differentiate Bright House from other area competitors.

Viewers can submit any video they like regardless of category, but the channel won't air those that are vulgar or offensive. YOU on Demand has a family focus, hosted by Chadd and Kristi Thomas, husband-and-wife broadcasters from FM 94.9's Magic Morning Show.

Staffers will create categories based on the material they receive from viewers, allowing them to shape the channel's focus.

"There are no set rules," said Kate Fox, the station's director of enhanced programming, who expects to see everything from family videos to amateur films. She said they started with the basic choices because "you can't go wrong with pets and kids."

Users are not paid for their videos and must send a signed release form with submissions. The service is also available at the station's Orlando operations and may share content between the two.

Wiser said this is the only such service in the country that airs viewers' videos. The new features will live alongside other products produced by the station's professional staff. Some videos will also be available online.

"One of our goals is to deliver local content on more than one platform," Wiser said. "When you look at the future of TV, it's on demand."

Paul Swider can be reached at 727892-2271 or pswider@sptimes.com.