Comcast, Facebook to launch TV series

By The Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA – Comcast Corp. and Facebook.com are joining forces to create a television series from user-generated videos that will appear online and through video on demand.

Called “Facebook Diaries,” the series will consist of 10 half-hour episodes produced by R.J. Cutler, known for his edgy work gathering stories from regular folks in shows like “American High,” a nonfiction TV series chronicling the lives of suburban teens at an Illinois high school.

The shows, which will start airing later this year, will be seen simultaneously on Facebook and Comcast’s Ziddio.com, a video-uploading Web site similar to YouTube that was launched late last year. The videos also will be carried on Comcast’s video-on-demand service, which stores shows on its cable TV system for viewers to watch whenever they want.

“We’ve been having some dialogue with Comcast for a couple of months just on and off, just as they were putting their video plans together,” Owen Van Natta, chief operating officer of based Facebook, said Tuesday. “Then we engaged R.J. Cutler, and we came up with this idea.”

He said the ability to get users’ videos on cable TV as well as online appealed to the company. The social-networking Web site doesn’t have a video-uploading feature; users share links to their favorite videos. The deal with Philadelphia-based Comcast, the nation’s largest cable-TV operator, will expand Facebook’s video-sharing capability.

The deal also is expected to drive more Web traffic to Ziddio from Facebook’s more than 16 million users. Facebook, based in Palo Alto, Calif., is the second biggest social networking site behind News Corp.’s MySpace.com and the seventh most trafficked site in the country.

“We’re tapping into Facebook’s very large and very young demographic,” said Elizabeth Schimel, senior vice president of entertainment for Comcast Interactive Media.

Comcast and Facebook wouldn’t comment on the deal’s details, but Van Natta did say there will be “sponsorship and advertising opportunities.”

Schimel said Facebook’s 18-to-24-year-old typical audience is a targeted “sweet spot” for advertisers.

Starting in late March, Comcast and Facebook will ask users to submit videos about their lives through Ziddio. Videos can be a sort of free for all that can come from cell-phone recordings, Web cams, handheld devices and other sources, Cutler said.

Users will be encouraged to submit videos on themes such as “Who am I?,” “heartbreak” and “life during wartime,” Cutler said. The best ones will land in “Facebook Diaries.”

“Everyone has a story to tell,” Cutler said. “Their stories are compelling and engaging and dramatic and powerful and worthy of telling.”

“Facebook Diaries” will be the first project the Emmy-winning Cutler is specifically producing for the Internet. He said he’s merely looking ahead.

“The future of TV is not on TV,” Cutler said. “It’s the Internet.”