Seeking a piece of the "look at me" generation, Comcast Corp. today unveiled a partnership with Facebook that will let the social networking site's users create and share videos that could become part of a new TV series.
The deal gives Comcast a way to latch onto the user-generated content craze that has made YouTube a household name. Late last year, the Philadelphia cable company launched Ziddio.com, its own YouTube-like site.
With the Facebook venture, users will be able to submit videos they create to either Facebook or Ziddio.
"Today's generation is full of people who love to see themselves on television," said James McQuivey, television and media technology analyst for Forrester Research Inc.
Facebook is especially popular with college students. Comcast wants to tap the younger market, McQuivey said, as well as create new programs for its video-on-demand programming.
Comcast and Facebook hired R.J. Cutler, a well-known documentary and reality-TV producer, to comb through the video submissions to create a reality series, Facebook Diaries, available through Comcast video on demand. Cutler's credits include the Oscar-nominated The War Room and the Emmy-winning American High.
The companies will begin taking submissions next month but have not set a date for the series premiere.
Cutler said he will organize Facebook Diaries around themes such as "Heartbreak," or "Who am I?" for the half-hour episodes.
"You build these things with dramatic structure and flow," Cutler said. "They'll tell their stories and send them to us and we'll put together thematically driven episodes for the series, which will be featured on-demand as well as on the Internet."
Jupiter Research analyst Todd Chanko said the partnership could help Comcast build a new audience. With 24 million cable subscribers already, Comcast can't expect to add significant revenues by signing up more customers to watch television.
"This is a mature market," Chanko said. "They're going to try to accelerate and drive broadband [high-speed Internet] adoption by creating and providing interesting, compelling services for broadband subscribers."
Comcast comes to the online video market long after YouTube became the leading name in that space.
Both Comcast and Facebook executives said they were seeking ways to create content that will bridge the gap between the Internet and television. As popular shows have made repeats available for viewing on web sites and Internet content gains the attention of bigger media firms, companies are trying to stake a claim in both worlds.
Revenues will come from advertising, though the companies have not announced any sponsors or said how they will share those dollars.
"We were really excited to tap into Facebook's extraordinary community," said Liz Schimel, senior vice president for entertaintment at Comcast Interactive Media. "It just was a meeting of the minds, and it all fell together in a seamless and exciting way for both parties."
Based in Palo Alto, Facebook was founded in 2004 by 22-year-old Mark Zuckerberg so that users could share photos, favorite music and other information. It has more than 16 million registered users.
"Among other things, Ziddio brought this multi-platform expertise that we think is really cool. Our users will have the opportunity to have their videos distributed on on-demand as well as on the Internet," Facebook chief operating officer Owen Van Natta said.