Bravo! takes chance on Toothpaste short opera follow-up and interactive

Already flying high on critical praise for its forward-looking approach to digital enhancements for its youth-oriented MuchMusic TV station, CHUM Ltd. will next year take a creative chance on attracting a new audience to interactive content for its arts TV station Bravo!

Next spring, Toronto-based marblemedia will begin a viral and guerilla campaign to draw web surfers to ITV content connected to a new series of comedic operatic shorts dubbed Burnt Toast. Set to debut in the summer of 2005, the series of shorts are a follow-up to the cult hit Toothpaste and will also be broadcast next year by CBC. The content was funded by the broadcasters, Bravo!FACT, and the Bell Broadcast and New Media Fund.

The new series will incorporate a series of eight shorts in the same vein as Toothpaste – darkly comic original operas with love and relationships as their themes. This time around, the series will feature a who’s-who of Canadian celebrities, including a sprinkling of real opera stars and a heavy serving of names such as Paul Gross, Colin Mochrie, Mark McKinney, Barbara Hannigan, Deborah McGrath, Cathy Jones, Scott Thompson, and more. Dan Redican, who has written for Kids in the Hall and now stars on Puppets Who Kill, has written the material for TV, and is consulting on the writing for the interactive content. The television content is being co-produced by Rhombus Media and Marblemedia, while Marble will produce the interactive side.

marblemedia’s Andrew Lane tells Canadian NEW MEDIA that while the site will be aimed at a general audience, much of its content comes from research the company has done into the fast-growing women’s demographic, and has been crafted to create as large an audience as possible for the shorts ahead of their first airing.

“We did a lot of research into the phenomenon that’s going on with adult female gaming online – not in the traditional gaming sense of the kind of game you would see on YTV.com or anything like that at all. But just in terms of online interactive activities and games, even if they’re as simple as online crossword puzzles and online casinos and things like that, all the way through to these types of things that we’re developing, which we hope are the type of things that (they’d like)…The reason for the pre-launch is that we want that to be happening for a while prior to the television broadcast coming on, so that we’ve already kind of built a bit of a new audience.

Because Toothpaste had a following which was very grassroots and we’re hoping to use the web to tap back into that by exploiting things like the fan sites of some of our cast.”

Activities online will include the ability to send subversive e-greeting cards to friends, an avatar world in which people can interact with Burnt Toast’s characters as well as operatic characters such as Don Giovanni and Carmen, as well as wireless handset downloads. Marble is bringing in a contractor early next year to begin planting viral seeds on such sites as celebrity chat boards devoted to the Burnt Toast stars to spread the word.

CHUM Interactive producer Richard Kanee tells CNM the project is being undertaken in the spirit of experimentation by the broadcaster, which will play a strong supportive role in creating the interactive content. Asked how Burnt Toast will fit in with CHUM’s other activities, Kanee replies: “We approach interactive from a number of different perspectives. First and foremost it’s revenue generating opportunities. We’re looking at ways to reach a mass audience to sell advertising to that audience as well as to look at incremental revenue through things like premium SMS sort of things,” he says. “But, a big part of new media is still innovation, exploration and trying things that you don’t have a guarantee that they’re going to be revenue generating. And, that’s where you learn a lot…

“We’re all hoping for a home run, but I think people’s expectations are set appropriately and we’re hoping to do something that’s well produced and well conceived and as strong as it could be…. But, it’s something fairly different from what we’ve done traditionally, which is, you know, vote for your favourite videos, and it has a much deeper interactive to it and (is) more narrative-driven…(We’re) trying to understand ITV as a continually emergent interactive medium – where the audience is and what’s required in order to build this stuff and make it sustainable.”

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