TBI Vision Article 2013

I was interviewed for the "The platform and content revolution" article in the October/November 2013 issue of TBI Vision.

South African producer Earth Touch’s earthtouch.tv destination was initially set-up as a classic ‘long tail’ site for the company’s HD off-cuts. It then morphed into an online version of a traditional TV channel. “We’d built an audience, and it occurred to us that we could use the site to try out new, cutting edge material covering controversial topics that broadcasters wouldn’t necessarily jump at,” Earth Touch’s online manager, Stephen Embleton says. “When we launched the nature series Wild Sex, we were well aware that the one thing that most nature docs don’t talk about is sexual behaviour. But we approached the topic seriously, bringing in Carin Bondar, a leading biologist, to produce a show that fused solid science with entertainment value.”

Earth Touch took the digital connection one stage further by sourcing every single clip on the show from the internet. “Normally with a clip-based show we’d go to Getty Images or the BBC, but in this case we found all the clips we used on the web,” Embleton says. “As you can imagine getting the permissions was a long process, and there are significant disparities in quality, which we used to our advantage. Being web-based, the length of each episode is determined by what happens, the longest being 12 minutes.” 

Ten episodes were put up on the site, and almost immediately it was clear that the show’s appeal went beyond earthtouch.tv’s core audience. “Some of our regulars were surprised, and in order not to alienate them, we carried on putting up more traditional natural history shows. We have two seasons of 10 episodes of Wild Sex online, and have had well over 500,000 views in two months. When broadcasters see that, of course they take notice, plus we can repackage the show for a mainstream audience if needed.”

Monetisation however, remains complex. “We’ll do a third season if we can find a sponsor,” Embleton says. “Carin, our biologist, did a lot of networking, which helped to drive views, and we have our social media team working on it, so we’re quietly optimistic. We also got a lot of attention from traditional media, which drove eyeballs our way. It proves that there is a connection between broadcast and online, contrary to what a lot of people believe,” Embleton concludes. 


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