April 1, 2007
Bochco's Cafe Confidential an Interesting Foray into Web Content

Earlier today, I wrote about the launch of Prom Queen tonight, the Michael Eisner Webisode series that will feature 80 weekly 90-second episodes, distributed each Sunday night through MySpace and Monday through YouTube and its own Web site.

Another big name dipping his toes into the online video distribution waters as of late is famed television series creator Steven Bochco, who has teamed with online video site Metacafe for a new channel called Cafe Confidential.

The channel features Webcam confessionals, in which "reality TV" meets "the Web's clip culture," as Erick Schonfeld with The Next Net writes.

As opposed to Eisner's slick and professionally produced product, Bochco sifts through user-generated content to pick confessional videos for the channel, grouped in categories such as "Most Emarassing Moment" or "My First Time."

The reviews, however, have not all been kind. Jackson West at NewTeeVee admits to some entertainment among the user clips but concludes that, "When a man of considerable talents such as Mr. Bochco looks at the web, sums up the possibilities, and comes up with webcam confessionals, I think it says something about the nature of Metacafe's 18 million viewers worldwide."

While West's review may have been somewhat idealistic and directed more at populist entertainment and reality programming than at Bochco's channel on Metacafe in particular, Steve Bryant's Hollywood Reporter review seems somewhat hesitant to know how to evaluate the series. He writes, "If the Web is amenable to short-form cinema, then this, apparently, is verite as one-night stand."

Bryant points out that some commenters seem to be somewhat bored with the product after a while, particularly since Webcam confessions are not that hard to come by on the Web. However, he writes that the content is "addictive" and that "the clips are conveniently short, breezily edited and titillating."

The jury may still be out on the confessionals from Bochco, but its use of user-generated content emphasizes Metacafe's overall interest in creating an environment to reward users for the popularity of their videos. Back in January, I wrote about the site's Producer Rewards Program to monetarily reward the creators of videos based on the popularity of their content. At the time I wrote, "These types of rewards programs are obviously working well, as the numbers indicate, but Metacafe's own writing underscores the many difficulties and headaches in managing a program like this and trying to constantly update a system so that it cannot be "beaten" by the collective devious intelligence of users."