Irish documentary channel for mobile launched

21 Jun 2007

A new Irish documentary channel for the mobile platform will be launched at the Darklight Symposium 2007 which begins in Dublin today.

Digital content firm Wildwave launches the Wildlight Documentary Channel on the back of the success of its Wildlight Channel for film and animation, which has been operating for the past three years.

Wildwave CEO Stephen McCormack told “We’re hoping to bring in new people to make documentaries. If you have high-definition cameras and video cameras fairly cheap and everyone has video on their phone, our view is you can have better content than just cats on bicycles on YouTube.”

McCormack said digital technology is lowering the barrier for entry to film-making and allowing it to reach a wider audience through channels such as mobile and the internet, ultimately creating a new type of film maker and a new type of audience.

“YouTube is not all about happy slapping or kids skidding around Mullingar car parks. Hopefully we’ll get people going to those kids that are sliding and drifting in car parks and get their real interesting stories told, not just a two-second soundbyte on RTE’s Afternoon Show.”

The potential for Ireland’s digital content industry will be one of the topics discussed at the Darklight Symposium, a four-day event of film screenings, discussion forums and workshops which aims to bring key stakeholders together.

McCormack believes there will be fundamental change in how people consume video content in the next 18 months, with people alternating how they view content between the web, TV and mobile.

Nonetheless, Ireland will have to play catchup, McCormack said. At present none of the TV stations here commission content specifically for internet or mobile, unlike Channel 4 and the BBC. While McCormack complimented RTE’s website, he noted it is not paid for by the license fee and has to survive on its own terms, thereby limiting its ability to commission new web-specific material.

“The investment back into arts, film and creative industries hasn’t been relative to the growth of the country over the past few years,” commented Nicky Gogan, director of the Darklight Symposium.

“It’s still a very grassroots system. People are developing things themselves. Digital technology has supported that because it’s made it affordable for people to have their own edit suites in their house and their own digital cameras whereas 10 years ago that was impossible.”

Digital media gets some funding from State bodies such as Enterprise Ireland, the Arts Council and the Irish Film Board but more investment is needed to bring the industry here up to speed, noted Gogan.

Because digital film production is cheaper than traditional film production, funding is not the main obstacle: getting their content noticed and making money is the main challenge for digital content producers.

With the proliferation of user-generated content on the web, there is the danger that quality becomes subsumed in the mass quantity of stuff out there. Gogan said word-of-mouth (or word-of-mail) is still driving the popularity of much of the better content on the internet but predicted that curator networks will become a more common method of gatekeeping.

“Those curator network platforms will distinguish themselves as other broadcasting platforms have done – the way Channel 4 or HBO have their own programming and commissioning style,” she said. “It’s moving away from this content aggregation model where things are gobbled up and it’s left to see what happens.”

The on-demand model will be paramount, said Gogan, with people having more choice over when and where they consume content.

Most digital content will be supported by advertising, McCormack forecast, pointing out that TV has existed on this model for quite some time.

The next key step for the sector is to help today’s uploaders of user-generated content to websites to be the indie film makers of tomorrow.

“There is lots of talent here in Ireland; our push now is to bring it to the next level, to make it a real industry,” said McCormack.

The Darklight Symposium runs until Sunday.

By Niall Byrne