Are we already seeing the death of the viral video? I think we can all agree that the viral nature of viral comes from the fact that its spreads by word-of-mouth (mouth = email or cell phone). That major media companies are now packaging online clips as “viral” suggests that they don’t really get it.
VH1 has Web Junk 20 with the companion site VSPOT (and, yes, I’m amused to see that the New York Times article specifically notes that these so-called “viral” web moments are released to the VH1 website after they’re aired on the show). Bravo has its series Outrageous and Contagious: Viral Videos. USA Networks is reportedly working on a project as well. Already it’s enough, right?
Can you say Carson Daly? I thought you could. And despite the fact that jumping the shark has jumped the shark, the major media viral video craze has jumped the shark when a show called (wait for it) The Net with Carson Daly is poised for debut. What, blogging wasn’t good enough for him?
Now a cynic would suggest that this is just another way for the networks to draw eyeballs away from the Internet. Of course, a cynic would be required to acknowledge that the plan is likely to lead to increased web surfing because it is human nature to try to find the next cool thing before the majors do.
A cynic would also suggest that this viral thing is part of a diabolical plan to cut costs via cheap labor — most of these productions are done at home, using whatever equipment is on hand. Sure, iFilm is part of the MTV family, that’s really beside the point because it’s all about being real:
“People want to believe these were completely homemade expressions,” he [Brian Graden, president of entertainment for MTV Networks Group] said, “that they were discovered out in the universe and were brought to air. If they look like slickly produced television I don’t think people would buy into the utter randomness that is that show.”
Mmm hmm. This is Hollywood, baby, and there’s no way your big studios aren’t trying to get them some of that viral action.