Producers vs. Consumers
By Carlo Longino, Thu Feb 19 21:30:00 GMT 2004

MMS is having quite an impact on the media and broadcast industries, but while some companies only see it as another distribution medium, others see and opportunity to better involve their audiences by turning them into producers.

A new BBC chat show broadcasting viewers' MMS pictures is the latest in a growing trend of commercial media using cameraphones to let viewers contribute content.

Interactive TV used to mean a show would broadcast the results of a Web poll, but things are getting a bit more interesting. A nightly chat show, Live at Johnny's, launched on BBC3 in the UK this week, and solicits users for MMS images to work in to the show. The first segment aired Monday night, with the "Theme of the Day" having something to do with actress Renee Zellweger at an awards show, so viewers were asked to send in pictures of "people with faces like hamsters."

Several mainstream newspapers and Web sites have asked viewers to send in cameraphone images they then publish, but incorporating the images into live tv is still relatively new.

This contrasts the approach of other media companies, like reality-TV giant Endemol, which recently said it would look to provide video to users' mobile phones of any new show it launched in the UK. While it may be great to offer viewers immediate access to Big Brother highlights, or send their friends captioned images of the show's stars for GBP1.50, don't media companies have more to gain by making their audience a part of the process? Turning them into producers with a stake in the content is far better than simply trying to engage them as passive consumers.