What is it about reality TV that keep some of us glued to the screen? Is it the unscripted dialogue, the ability to see events as they unfold? Or is it the honesty in it all - being able to watch the "stars" sweating, laughing and crying through their victories, heartache and bizarre love triangles.
Thanks to the Israeli company blogTV, reality TV is now in everyones' hands. The Ramat Gan-based company is gaining popularity with American online users in epic proportions.
Not only does the company allow users to create their own live TV channel or recorded Internet webcasts, but they also let users interact with the "broadcaster" through video and chat as events unfold. This is different from YouTube, which webcasts pre-recorded content, and far removed from MySpace, which offers users little in the way of interactivity.
"MySpace is so 2005," says Nurit Gazit, the VP of operations at blogTV, from her Israel office.
Last time they checked, she says, more than 100,000 users - mainly in the US - had registered to the blogTV.com site with about 700 new episodes added daily.
BlogTV.com was first launched in 2007, but its early beginnings go back to 2004 when it was operating under the same name inside a line of products offered by the Israeli online portal Tamuz.
In 2005, the mobile version of Israel's blogTV was launched for all mobile carriers in Israel, allowing handset owners to watch live shows using their cellphones.
The company's principle investor is Tamuz People, which invested $3 million in the startup. Guy Eliav who previously served as the CEO for Tamuz in the late '90s is blogTV's current CEO, and key advisors include Jeff Pulver, one of the pioneers of Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) technology.
Christian Slater's character, who ran the pirate radio station in the '90s flick Pump Up the Volume would no doubt be proud of what blogTV has achieved. The platform not only lets new video "pirates" on the air, it also opens up the world of video-conferencing, giving free and new possibilities to university lecturers, CEOs of companies and even to rock stars who want to perform live to a select or very wide audience.
"The platform is quite revolutionary in that it enables anyone with mobile, webcam, and DV cameras to create content and communicate real-time with their audience and fans," Gazit tells ISRAEL21c.
ICQ believes in the product, recently signing a licensing agreement with blogTV to market its platform to eight million active ICQ users in Russia. According to blogTV, it will operate a Russian language site customized for the local market.
With blogTV owning the video-sharing technology it has created, Gazit adds that besides being "live," blogTV has two other attractive features. "It allows for 1-on-1 live video interaction during a broadcast as well as 1-on-1 file transferring," she says.
For parents who are worried about the integrity of the shows being streamed, Gazit reports that a team of moderators are watching at all times to ensure that the content stays within the realm of decency. Community tools also let viewers report any acts of indecency during a show.
Musicians and comedians are digging the site too. BlogTV now hosts Music Mondays and features new underground musicians every week. BlogTV Comedy Night provides a stage for up and coming comedians to share their new jokes.
The sharing doesn't stop there. A blogTV channel also lets users embed shows into other sites and blogs, such as Facebook. Users can view shows via a cellphone, PC or any high-speed Internet connected device.
Since launching blogTV.com to a US audience in June last year, seven million minutes of live broadcasts have been transmitted per month. Does this mean it's time to say farewell to Survivor and forget about becoming America's Next Top Model?
Maybe. With blogTV, everyone and virtually anyone can create their own reality show, build their own fanbase and feel like a true reality star.