Bar Karma: Current TV To Team Up With Sims-creator Will Wright To Develop a User-Generated, Participatory Scripted Program

written by: Richard Kastelein

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Current TV, a haven for Millennials, is verging into their first scripted programming with a social angle that allows for viewers to participate in its development and vote on proposed storylines as well as vote for the best in a community-like structure. Current TV has chosen to work Sims video game designer Will Wright on the new program called Bar Karma - apparently about a mystical watering hole at the edge of the universe.

As far back as 2003, he had signed a deal to make a television show for Fox that never materialized.

In 2009, he quit his Maxis studio  to found Stupid Fun Club, an innovation-creative group dedicated to projects in various forms of entertainment. As of October 2009, the startup had three "play industry" projects in development.  

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Bar Karma will work like this... Viewers will sign up on the site at Bar Karma where they can simply submit story ideas, which will be selected by the producers, who will post the finalists. Then, viewers will be able to submit storyboards for the shows, the finalists of which will be selected and posted for the Bar Karma community to vote on. Finally, the digital entertainment studio Worldwide Biggies will adapt, shoot, and produce the winning storyboards into actual 30-minute episodes.

"Bar Karma is a culmination of over a year's work and I am very excited to see the results as we join together not only gamers and television viewers, but actually create a community that will be empowered with a professional production team," said Wright in a statement.

No news of Social TV app development for dual or single screen on the radar yet, but I would not be surprised if they push it from web only to mobile and tablets for real time interaction during show and as a way for viewers and neophyte writers to plot good and evil together.

In a statement, Current explained how the game will work:

STEP 1 – JOINING – Viewers will log on to “Current TV’s Creation Studios” at
www.current.com/barkarma through their computers and mobile devices and join the online community.
 
STEP 2 – CREATING – Viewers will submit potential story ideas on an ongoing basis.  Each week the show producers will provide the viewing community with a rough outline for the upcoming episode.  Viewers will then have the ability to create various storyboards of unlimited plot possibilities.
 
STEP 3 - VOTING – Viewers will browse, comment and merge various ideas for the episode.  Final proposals will then be reviewed and voted on.
 
STEP 4 - PRODUCING – After the final storyboard is selected by the community, Hecht and Worldwide Biggies will adapt, shoot, produce and edit the winning storyline into a 30 minute television episode.

Current has also signed Albie Hecht, former President of Spike TV and President of Entertainment at Nickelodeon, who has served as Wright’s co-creator on the project and will executive produce the series, with his digital entertainment studio Worldwide Biggies serving as the show’s production company. David Cohn, former General Manager of MTV2, will serve as executive in charge for the network.
"Bar Karma is a culmination of over a year's work and I am very excited to see the results as we join together not only gamers and television viewers, but actually create a community that will be empowered with a professional production team,” stated Will Wright. “To develop and lead an initiative like this fulfills a long held passion for television, and I am thrilled that Current would provide the resources and creative support to bring this to air.”
“I have always been excited by innovation and what we are creating is unlike anything on television,” stated Albie Hecht of Worldwide Biggies. “The technology that Will has invented empowers viewers to participate, but also provides direct communication to me and my production team. We will be taking our cues from the viewers, working with them and then quickly producing high quality, original content. This is truly a paradigm-changing project that will showcase the creativity of the general public in shaping a television series.”
“Current is taking original programming to a new level. Bar Karma will fuse the power of television, the internet and mobile devices and provide viewers the ability to truly create and control a television series,” stated Mark Rosenthal, CEO of Current. “Will Wright is a phenomenal creator and we are thrilled he came to Current to launch his first television series. Together, we hope to move television storytelling beyond passive participation and allow viewers to become true programming partners.”


About the Author

Richard Kastelein
Founder of The Hackfest, publisher of TV App Market and global expert on Media & TV innovation, Kastelein is an award winning publisher and futurist. He has guest lectured at MIT Media Lab, University of Cologne, sat on media convergence panel at 2nd EU Digital Assembly in Brussels, and worked with broadcasters such as the BBC, NPO, RTL (DE and NL), Eurosport, NBCU, C4, ITV, Seven Network and others on media convergence strategy - Social TV, OTT, DLNA and 2nd Screen etc.

He is a Fellow of the UK Royal Society of Arts (RSA) and UK Royal Television Society (RTS) member.

Kastelein has spoken (& speaking) on the future of media & TV in Amsterdam, Belfast, Berlin, Brussels, Brighton, Copenhagen, Cannes, Cologne, Curacao, Frankfurt, Hollywood, Hilversum, Geneva, Groningen (TEDx), Kuala Lumpur, London, Las Vegas, Leipzig, Madrid, Melbourne, NYC, Rio, Sheffield, San Francisco, San Jose, Sydney, Tallinn, Vienna, Zurich...

He's been on advisory boards of TEDx Istanbul, SMWF UK, Apps World, and judged & AIB awards, Social TV Awards Hollywood, TV Connect & IPTV Awards.

A versatilist & autodidact, his leadership ability, divergent and synthetic thinking skills evolved from sailing the world 24000 miles+ offshore in his 20′s on sailboats under 12m.

He spent 10 years in the Caribbean media & boating industry as a professional sailor before returning to Europe, to Holland.

A Creative Technologist and Canadian (Dutch/Irish/English/Metis) his career began in the Canadian Native Press and is now a columnist for The Association for International Broadcasting and writes for Wired, The Guardian & Virgin. His writings have been translated into Polish, German and French. 

One of Kastelein's TV formats was optioned by Sony Pictures Television in 2012. 

Currently involved in a number of startups including publishing TV App Market online, The Hackfest and Tripsearch TV. As CSO for Worldticketshop he helped build a $100m company.

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