Fandom is the future of online entertainment – or at least that’s what digital media entrepreneurs are banking on. If you like to watch your favorite shows while live-tweeting on your phone and interacting with actors and creators online, app developers are courting you in a serious way. Yesterday we told you about Bing Chen’s new platform Victorious, which aims to help YouTubers connect with their most passionate fanbases.
Another company embracing online fandom is Smiletime, a Santa Monica startup co-founded by Hulu’s former head of content acquisitions Alex Kruglov. Lately the video platform has been playing around with new ideas that engage with different fanbases and feature some familiar talent from the new media scene, and the results definitely have potential.
Smiletime bills itself as “an interactive, social, video platform that embraces the Internet’s unique interactive properties to create what comes next in premium video storytelling.” The site hosts a series of “Smilecasts,” live events that bring together actors, fans and in-studio guests. During the session, fans can sign in via Facebook to join video chats or ask questions in a moderated chat window.
It’s still in the audience-building stages, but already Smiletime has delivered some unique fan interactions with entertainment personalities. Recently they hosted “Fan Talk” sessions with the cast and crew of CW shows The 100, The Flash and Arrow, and they partnered with The Hollywood Reporter to host a forum about Mad Men following the premiere of its final season. Gaming site Twin Galaxies uses Smiletime’s embeddable player to host a 24-hour feed, where gamers can connect with each other and join live events like tournaments and chats with celebrity gamers.
Over at Smiletime Labs, a forum for incubating new ideas, they’ve been experimenting with an interactive show called “Sitcom Roulette,” where a group of actors reads through a script, selected at the last minute by popular vote, from classic sitcoms like Cheers, Three’s Company and Will & Grace.
The show has featured some familiar faces from new media — Katy Stoll and her friends from Cracked.com are key players, as is Stevie Nelson from Live Prude Girls — and they’ve brought on special guest stars like Saturday Night Live alum Horatio Sanz. It has a fun behind-the-scenes feel as actors flub their lines and improvise with props, while the audience provides snarky commentary and banter with each other via live chat.
It’s too early to tell if Smiletime’s approach will catch on, but they seem to be making savvy decisions about fan culture and online collaborations so far. It will be interesting to see what else they come up with as the format evolves.
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