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Condom-Sponsored "Online Soap" in the UK

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This piece was originally published  as part of an entry on October 02, 2007, on the MIT Convergence Culture Consortium Weblog here

I've been writing about a variety of interesting online video series lately, that have been in one way or another labeled "online soaps." I want to make clear at the outset, though, that I don't personally agree with this definition, or at least would argue that the online soap would be considered a very different format than the daytime soap.

I've been thinking about these issues a lot lately, as Abigail Derecho and I are co-editing a collection of essays on the contemporary state of daytime serial drama. We have been thinking through questions about what does and does not count as soap opera. I've discussed this often with other friends and fellow soaps enthusiasts, like Lynn Liccardo, in the past, finding that there is danger in the conflation of daytime soaps and primetime soaps, even with the similarities.

The latest of these online soaps comes from the United Kingdom, originating with a study that has found that the desire to watch the romantic lives of soap stars often eclipse the romantic lives of the actual fans. Now, mind you, a condom maker commissioned this study.

The folks over at Soap Central write:

About one-third of UK soap fans have admitted to looking to their favorite soap stars to spice up their sex lives. But in a slightly bizarre twist worth of a soap opera, four times as many people would watch an episode of their favorite soap over having sex with their partner. Moreover, most Britons spend 50% more time watching soaps than they do engaging in sex.

Further, the study found that 25 percent of the respondents said they would turn their partners away if they made a sexual advance during the course of watching their soap.

Mates Condoms has decided that they will launch a new online soap called, fittingly, Mates. However, instead of just labeling itself as a "Webi-soap," which it actually does, it is also called a "sex-com." The site points out that the public can determine the course of the plot.

The series will emphasize the sex lives of the characters through short episodes, with the idea that a different viewing experience, a focus on sex, and a condom sponsorship will make Mates be the type of show to get viewers excited about their own sex lives.

Of course, I think it is missing the point of the draw of daytime soaps, or any type of dramatic serialized programming, to think that their only attraction, or perhaps even their primary attraction, is about sexual fantasy, but it's an interesting approach to branded content nonetheless.

See my other recent posts about online video series here, here, and here.

By the way, if anyone who reads the C3 blog regularly is interested in the CFP for the proposed anthology by Abigail and me, feel free to drop me a line. The deadline is Nov. 1.

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