Bebo gives thumbs-up to season two of online soap


28 May 2008

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Sofia’s Diary, a hugely popular interactive soap produced by Irishwoman Triona Campbell that has attracted 12.9 million interactions to date, has been given the green light for a second season.

At a time when TV channels are looking at ways to win the lucrative 13-21 year-old market back from the computer screen to the television, Bebo has a sure-fire hit on its hands. Sofia’s Choice has secured one of the first crossover to traditional TV deals through an arrangement with Fiver.

The second season of the popular show will bring to 130 the number of bitesized chapters of the show which focuses on the lives of London teenager Sofia and her friends.

Sofia’s Diary, which is produced for Sony Pictures and Entertainment International, follows the life of 17-year-old Sofia Taylor who is adjusting to a new life with her dad, step-mum and baby step-brother, having being sent to London by her mother after getting into trouble at school.

Sofia’s Diary, represents an exciting development in online entertainment as it takes viewer interaction to the next level. Each week Sofia, played by young actress Rachel Hyde-Harvey, faces a certain problem or dilemma that viewers help her to solve by voting online or by mobile text.

The series’ first episode attracted 305,000 views in the first 24 hours and within two weeks hit five million views. Behind this phenomenon is Trinity College Dublin graduate Triona Campbell, who learned her craft under legendary Hollywood horror producer, Roger Corman.

In a recent interview with siliconrepublic.com, Campbell described her role as producer of Sofia’s Diary as being “at the centre of a digital revolution” – the place of choice for the programme’s core audience of teens and twentysomethings; a generation looking beyond the mainstream media to shape its world view via the internet.

“This is a revolution. You can use a high-def handy-cam to create your own product and broadcast it on the web. I believe strongly in this. You can do it from anywhere and this could be good for Ireland. Then again, Ireland has broadband problems. There are parts of Roundstone where you still have to use a dial-up connection.”

Sofia’s Diary is unique given the level of interaction the programme has with fans. “The way the entire system works is fascinating. Fans can interact by Bebo mail, leaving comments and writing blogs. This helps us to flesh out the characters 360-degrees with their own webpages and comments.”

Campbell said there was a major change underway in terms of the quality of shows now going online. “When the internet first started, films online were all shaky cameras and grainy images. Now the audience has grown more sophisticated and want television-standard programmes on the web.

“For this new platform, keep your films short to around 2mins 30secs per episode. Another thing to remember is that comedy really works well on the web.

“The other thing is the internet is not a market where you can put a 30-minute documentary online. You need to look at the specifics of your audience and how they best want to consume material.”

Campbell, who also works out of the Institute of Art & Design Dun Laoghaire, said it would be her ambition to teach budding producers how to create their own video blogs and films.

Bebo’s global communications director, Sarah Gavin, commented: “The success of Sofia’s Diary has been hugely satisfying to the entire team working on the fantastic series. We are delighted with its performance over multiple platforms and pleased with the synergy it has built with its community of followers both on and offline.

“We’re proud that Bebo is seen as the place for outstanding original content online, and look forward to producing further episodes for its many avid fans to look forward to.”

At the recent IIA conference in Dublin, Bebo head of sales Mark Charkin, said that content such as TV shows produced online are key to the social networking firm’s monetisation strategy as they are funded by brand advertising.

By John Kennedy

Pictured: Sophie’s Diary

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26

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