ABC Family Adds 'My Alibi' to Online Roster
ABCFamily.com has picked up short-form Web series, My Alibi, from Disney-owned Take 180, a teen-targeted portal that creates short-form Web series and then integrates viewer ideas and submissions into those series.
Take 180 is run by Chris Williams, who used to run a site called Fan Lib. That site did something similar – it got fans engaged in shows and tried to incorporate their views into storylines. FanLib worked on engaging fans with existing shows, such as Showtime’s The L Word. Take 180 goes a step further: it offers lots of opportunities for fans to get involved with online shows that it’s producing.
From my cursory look around, Take 180’s production is professional and feels very ABC Family-like. 90210’s Gabrielle Carteris plays My Alibi’s school principal, and Mad Men’s Allison Brie, who is anywhere between 20 and 30 years old, appears as a typical high-school overachiever, not unlike Carteris’ own 90210 character back in the day. (On Mad Men, Brie appears as Pete Campbell’s uptight wife, Trudy, and in the live Mad Men Revue at NATPE, we learned that the tiny Brie can really belt out a tune!)
On Take 180, viewers don’t produce Web episodes, per se, but they contribute to their production via “challenges,” such as submit a video “telling us about a time you did community service,” or “telling us what drives you crazy about someone you know.” Take 180’s Webisodes are each three minutes long (hence the site’s name), and the portal has been in beta-testing since the fall. It goes live for real this spring.
If I were a teenager (and I am mentally) or I had a teenager (and I am old enough for this to be possible, which still amazes me every day of my old life), I would dig this site. The stories run along the ABC Family line – clean, upbeat, a little zany, and with a lessons-learned kind of vibe. The “challenges” encourage kids to be creative, thoughtful and engaged. Kids are going to watch TV anyway – why not have them watch something that involves them? And with super-simple-to-use Flip video cameras cheap and getting cheaper (and no, I have no contact with the company so that’s my honest opinion about the product), it’s easy for kids to create and submit quick videos on what they’re thinking and feeling these days.
Take 180 also is already finding that its young actors are getting noticed. My Alibi’s lead, Zachary Burr Abel – a teen cutie that reminds me of High School Musical’s Zac Efron — has been cast in ABC Family’s new drama Perfect 10.
My Alibi is just another of example of how new media is going to assist Hollywood with the complicated art of developing talent and shows. Series can get started online, move to more mainstream portals, get syndicated across the Web and eventually find themselves on network TV. Same for stars: Abel might soon find himself surrounded by screaming pre-teens if he doesn’t watch it.
That process could save networks a lot of time and money, and in this economically challenged time, that means a lot.