Art and Entertainment

Danny Lawson/AP
Fans gather to watch Susan Boyle perform in the Britain's Got Talent live semi-final on a
large screen in the community center in her home town of Blackburn, West Lothian.

Producers Haven't Profited from Susan Boyle’s Online Success

May 26, 2009 07:00 PM
by Anne Szustek
Susan Boyle has advanced to the finals of “Britain’s Got Talent,” airing Saturday in the UK. But show producers haven't received any revenue from online videos of her performances.

Will Boyle Be a Cinderella Story for Media Companies, Too?

Susan Boyle, the contestant on U.K. singing contest "Britain's Got Talent" whose performance of the "Les Miserables" song "I Dreamed a Dream" has captivated TV watchers at home and online audiences around the world, is on the verge of seeing her Cinderella story come to fruition. She has qualified for the finals, scheduled to broadcast Saturday, after British viewers applauded her rendition of "Memories" from the musical "Cats."

While her U.K. fan base can get her to the next round, the roughly 60 million viewers of her "I Dreamed a Dream" performance entrench her place in the 2009 pop culture canon. However, show producers are still struggling to capitalize on Boyle's online success.

According to The New York Times, FremantleMedia, the production firm that has the digital rights to "Britain's Got Talent," quickly uploaded video clips of Boyle's performance to Google-owned YouTube. However, the company failed to realize any direct revenue from doing so. General users also uploaded clips from the show's broadcast, which proved to be more popular than the official uploads. In addition, as the show has three producers and is aired by a fourth party, U.K. network ITV, , there were problems in negotiating terms with YouTube and in the end, there was no deal.

The New York Times quoted an estimate by The Times of London that the failed deal would have been worth approximately $1.87 million.

If appropriately managed, the publicity surrounding Susan Boyle should be worth its weight in gold. Boyle's performance was the fastest-growing clip in the five-odd years of Web video, with the popularity spilling over to other acts of "Britain's Got Talent" as well as earlier Boyle performances, such as two recordings posted by The New York Times Medium blog, featuring the singing sensation at age 22.

Background: Susan Boyle shows talent is about more than looking good

Boyle drew courage to go out for “Britain’s Got Talent” following her mother's death, who had always told her she would be successful. Her appearance, including frizzy hair and an unstylish dress, drew the derision of the audience and the show's judges alike.

But after her stunning performance of “I Dreamed A Dream,” judge Piers Morgan declared her performance worthy of the most definite “yes” he had ever given. Judge Amanda Holden told her that prior to hearing her voice, the whole audience had been laughing at her. Boyle became an overnight sensation the world over.

By and large, Boyle has stayed true to her "down-home" look, although some raised eyebrows at her recent £100 (about $150) makeover, which included hair coloring and eyebrow shaping. Others, including Washington Post fashion writer Robin Givhan, supported her conversion from proverbial ugly duckling into swan.

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