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<font color=#cc0000>WEBCASTING</font><br> - TvTechnology

WEBCASTING

AENTV (Alternative Entertainment Network), a producer and syndicator of streaming content, has teamed with Bill Nye to produce 50 new mini-episodes of the popular children's science show, Bill Nye The Science Guy. Co-executive produced by Nye and AENTV President and CEO Drew Cummings, the episodes will be streamed on both Nye's and AENTV's websites. Cummings has already penned syndication deals with Microsoft, Ask Jeeves, and CompuServe, and he also plans to approach entities operating "more youth-related sites," including Nickelodeon and Disney.
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AENTV (Alternative Entertainment Network), a producer and syndicator of streaming content, has teamed with Bill Nye to produce 50 new mini-episodes of the popular children's science show, Bill Nye The Science Guy. Co-executive produced by Nye and AENTV President and CEO Drew Cummings, the episodes will be streamed on both Nye's and AENTV's websites. Cummings has already penned syndication deals with Microsoft, Ask Jeeves, and CompuServe, and he also plans to approach entities operating "more youth-related sites," including Nickelodeon and Disney.

Cummings chose to stream the show because he felt that AENTV was lacking programming for children in its line-up, which included The Hollywood Reporter Minutes, Game Pro Minutes, Billboard Minutes, and Chix On Flix. Casting about for a good children's show, he didn't have to look for long.

"My eight year old watches Bill Nye reruns on Nickelodeon," he commented. "If you have children, you know who Bill Nye is. We were looking for programming that had either a brand or celebrity attached to it, and Bill Nye is the only live icon that caters to that age bracket, other than cartoons."

When Cummings approached the show's namesake with the idea, Nye said he was, "...for the most part, caught off guard." Since PBS member station KCTS in Seattle ceased production of his show in 1998, reruns have been running on Nickelodeon's Noggin network. He had been mulling over the possibility of reprising production and making videos aimed at science teachers. But he had his doubts over producing episodes solely for streaming over the Internet.

"My concerns were that it was going to cost me a lot of money, not look good, and devalue the show I had worked hard on," he recounted. But he went ahead and did research on AENTV, and was impressed with the quality of its existing syndicated original programming. The fact that the company also has its own production and post production facilities was another plus.

"The AENTV studio is appropriately sized for webcasting, in my opinion," said Nye. "Drew [Cummings] already had the infrastructure that supported the production." After building a set, the crew assembled for an intense seven day shoot. Written by Nye and directed by AENTV's Richard Brooker, the five to seven minute episodes were shot with four Ikegami HDW-400 DigiBeta cameras. When the show required an outdoor shoot (such as an episode on barometric pressure shot on a hilltop), the production team used Sony DSR-500 DV cameras.

"Producing a science experiment show is much like a cooking show," noted Cummings. "You need a number of different elements for each experiment and it doesn't always go right the first time and you have to do them over again. For example, one experiment called for a hard boiled egg, so we made sure he had at least 12 eggs." "But it was fairly straight-forward production," he added. "That's because Bill is a one-take genius-and a delight to work with."

The show did post production at AENTV, using the Matrox DigiSuite LX Max nonlinear editing system. Cummings reports that his facility purchased the full Matrox DigiSuite three years ago, but was excited to cut the Bill Nye, Science Guy episodes on the LX system, which gave staff the ability to use the full complement of Adobe Premiere tools. "It's realtime and fast," said Cummings, who notes that After Effects and Premiere were used for the visual effects. "Matrox has been a solid company. In the three years that we have had the DigiSuite, it hasn't been down for more than 30 minutes. It's an absolute workhorse. Now, with the Digisuite LX Max system, the Matrox card will make the Adobe Premiere software shine."

In addition to syndicating the episodes, Cummings has another idea on how to create revenue from the new production. He plans on putting each experiment on mini-CD and DVD and marketing them as a Bill Nye science experiment collection, much like baseball cards. He plans to target schools, and possibly make a deal with a fast food chain or cereal manufacturer.

To this idea, Nye wryly commented, "Many, many people over the years have had brilliant ideas over how to make money off of me. I just had an idea that Drew is competent." In the meantime, Nye also said that, whereas his show's website was never a revenue source, he hopes, through AENTV, to rake in advertisements. His personal website, www.billnye.com, launched several weeks ago, will provide access both to his old TV shows and the new "webisodes" on the AENTV site. The streaming content doesn't preclude the possibility of reviving his broadcast career. Nye says that he has offers to do another show but that he hasn't made any commitments: "The first show was so good because the people were so good. I want to work with good, competent people,"he said.