Bebo falls into 'Gap' with Endemol

Interactive weekly Web series follows Euro students

Bebo is venturing into unscripted programming.

The social networking giant has struck a deal with reality-format king Endemol for "The Gap Year," which follows six Bebo users as they travel the globe for six months. But in addition to a weekly half-hour program available on the site, "Gap" will be given an interactive twist that allows users to influence or experience it any time through blogs, polls, maps and other features overlaid on the cast's profile pages.

"We're really excited because it is a globally based program," said Joanna Shields, president of Bebo and executive producer of "Gap." "It will really draw on our strength in communities."

Shields is adding entertainment programming to differentiate Bebo as it competes worldwide with other social networking category leaders including MySpace and Facebook. Bebo is the most-visited social network in the U.K. and Ireland and runs third in the U.S. and Canada.

The company launched the serialized drama "KateModern," a spinoff of the "lonelygirl15" series, months ago. Another drama, "Sofia's Diary," is on the way. For its part, Endemol also has been putting its unscripted expertise ("Big Brother," "Deal or No Deal") to use outside television in recent years, including the interactive BBC series "Signs of Life."

The gap year is the period between high school and university when European students typically travel abroad. The subject matter should be well suited with Bebo's core demographic of young adults ages 16-24 around the world.

Users can have a say in the direction of "Gap" by voting in polls that play off questions offered by the cast regarding to which regions they should travel to next.

Casting on "Gap" will begin in December, allowing Bebo users to nominate themselves and then have their peers on the site select the six winning contestants -- one each from the U.K., Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the U.S. The program runs from January-June.

"Gap" is similar in tone to long-running travel-adventure unscripted series including CBS' "The Amazing Race" and MTV's "Road Rules." While "Gap" would be the first to set such a format on a social network, both "Rules" and Travel Channel series "5 Takes" have previously melded online and TV to give their series interactivity.

Bebo is seeking advertisers for integration deals with "Gap."