Adam Rymer, president of Legendary Digital Networks.

Legendary Digital Networks (LDN) is creating a community-oriented digital platform servicing the fans of Nerdist and Geek & Sundry, two multiplatform brands celebrating pop, fandom, geek and lifestyle culture. Dubbed Alpha, the service will launch in early Q4 and will be priced in the $3-7 range, according to LDN president Adam Rymer, and will feature 6-8 hours of live programming with a strong member-participation component.

Programming from the complementary channels be both live and new and returning, and will include some fan favorites. Examples of interactivity included watch-alongs with celebrity guests, game shows with members as contestants and live discussions about member-chosen topics. Members will also get perks like VIP event access, prizes and discounts.

It’s not exactly an SVOD, Rymer said. “We’ve coined the term CVOD, community video on demand, because if we do our jobs right it’s about creating a fan or community experience that you can’t get from Reddit or YouTube right now,” he said. “The whole notion of this platform is to be engaged with live programming.” That includes the ability to use live, interactive polls, interactive voting, and other ways to effect the show in real time. Users will be able to participate with their own video cams, and be able to be “guested” onto the show, Rymer said.

So what does that look like? The idea is to create a platform that can handle multiple live video streams and thousands of users. So when members participate in a show, they’ll be visible on the screen. Just like in TV production, there will be various layouts and skins, depending on the nature of the show. “The key to the experience is that all the shows have to be good regardless of participation because we know a lot of people are just going to watch the show and not be part of it.” And shows being watched on demand need to stand up as well.

Here’s an example of member participation: When you’re in a chat room, you’ll be able to push a button indicating your interest in being on a show. You’ll then be led to a virtual green room, where producers will walk you through the process and then pop you up on the screen. Another example: a choose-your-own adventure show, where fans’ decisions will impact the following episode—American Idol style.

Part of the motivation behind the platform was to be that next step in content production, by combining the ability to produce content with a social, community aspect. But LDI felt like the technology wasn’t out there yet, so with the help of outside developers they built their own. That leaves the next step for the platform wide open. “We’re looking at the first six months to a year as really trying to refine the technology and the service and figure out what kind of formats work and what gets people excited about wanting to watch these shows together and feel that community experience,” Rymer said. And if the interactive features are a success, he hopes that others will be interested in the technology—or even licensing it out. “If it turns out people actually really like the kinds of experiences we’re creating, then nothing’s going to be off the table.”

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