A new website called We Dig TV is transforming TV game shows and re-making
them for the internet. The site converts tv programs and formats into Internet tv shows,
making them interactive and a two-way Web experience. As of now they have adapted 4
classic TV game shows and optimised them for broadband use – with the user as the main
participant. The current game shows are: Blockbusters, Countdown, Family Fortunes and
Catchphrase. There are more coming soon, plus they have other shows currently being used
by third party clients.

While the current lot of shows are relatively simple question and answer formats, We
Dig TV is also creating more diverse shows. For example, they have just completed a
broadband version of Popstars – which allows the user to ‘audition’ as a singer over the
telephone. The game also apparently allows the judges to react online to the perceived
quality of the singing (or lack thereof – all you virtual Simon Cowells get your British
accents ready!).

So how is We Dig TV going to make money? Well, by traditional advertising of course.
We Dig TV is, rather curiously, positioning the advertising as being “an important part
of creating an authentic user experience”. In other words, they have made traditional
broadcast advertisements interactive as well. For example, participants in the
Blockbusters game are presented with ad breaks. An example of an advertisement currently
running is one for Dettol, which is the same as the TV broadcast version – except that
the user can participate using his/her mouse to apply dettol to the kiddies high chair.
We Dig TV says that “not only does this mean the user takes note of the ad, it is linked
in to reinforcing the message that Dettol kills germs.” I for one will be interested to
see how these ads are greeted by the users – I’m not sure why people would want to
participate in a Dettol ad.

We Dig TV’s quest for authenticity even goes as far as getting many of the same celebrities who were
involved in the TV versions, to participate in the Web versions of the shows.

The people behind We Dig TV are experienced
video game professionals
, and their passion for interactive TV shows through. In fact
it’s fantastic to read about how they started in 2001 and gradually worked their way
towards live Web action in 2007:

“2001 was too early to really flex our technical and creative muscles as we were still
awaiting the growth of high speed connectivity. So we spent the majority of the next 3
years honing our technology applications in anticipation of broadband becoming mass
market. We also worked with a multitude of firms on an online production basis, so as to
fund our growth and research. Picking up a few national awards along the way.


Our big break, the moment we had been working towards finally came in the summer of
2003, when we were commissioned by Celador International to develop and produce the
Broadband Version of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” – a truly ground breaking
production that defined the “i-show” format and went on to pick up the 2003 British
Interactive Media Association award for Best Broadband Site. “Who Wants To Be A
Millionaire?” was sold internationally and we were kept on to produce all the
versions.”

I tried out Blockbusters and found it to be an enjoyable experience – and yes, similar
to being on the real life tv show. Screenshots below. Personally I can’t see myself
playing it much more, but there are no doubt a lot of game show fans out there who will
love this. Where this technology will probably have a great take-up is in 5-10 years time
when actual TV sets have Internet technology by default, and so tv game shows will (I
suspect) be commonly two-way and interactive by then. Right now the technology seems a
little ahead of its time, in that mainstream audiences won’t flock to it just yet, but
it’s great that We Dig TV is tackling it now and positioning themselves for the
future.

Conclusion

First my pompous webhead theory… I’m usually not a big fan of straight adaptations
of a previous generation of technology or media, into the new generation – in this case,
from TV to Web. I prefer Web apps and sites to leverage the unique capabilities of the
Web environment and offer something new, that will gradually usurp (or maybe just
complement) other media. For example, I’ve always prefered Gmail over Yahoo Mail –
because Gmail introduces a number of new ‘web native’ features, whereas Yahoo Mail is a
straight copy of a desktop mail system.

But having said all that, We Dig TV is actually quite compelling and the
enthusiasm of the developers is hard to resist. It is also aiming to be a two-way
broadband experience – much more interactive and personalized than normal TV. So in that
sense they’re not just copying the TV shows and putting them onto the Web, but two-way
interactivity is being added to the mix. So this seems like one future for TV,
although I’d like to think a lot of ‘web native’ TV scenarios are waiting to arrive too –
perhaps even from We Dig TV, which certainly has the experience and brains.

So all in all, I give We Dig TV a round of canned TV audience applause. It’s
entertaining and also innovative, in an odd TV clone kind of way!

richard macmanus

subscriber