Three very interesting stories in recent days:
1- Warner Bros is introducing 24 web productions in a range of formats including minimovies, games and episodic television shows. But they have rather dramatically altered their initial strategy of demanding that advertisers bear the production costs from the outset. Instead, they have decided to finance most projects themselves and worry about lining up advertisers to recoup costs later.
Why? Because the content train is moving so fast towards Destination Online (sorry, that was pretty weak) that big companies must abandon their safe, risk-free models. "The shift underlies a growing realization among the big Hollywood studios: Web entertainment is evolving so quickly that they must take on more financial risk to keep up." (NY Times- 10 Sept 2007)
2- Talent agency UTA, which launched digital studio 60Frames Entertainment a few months ago, has now created United Entertainment Group to build brand-specific entertainment properties for consumer brands.
3- LA attorney Kevin Morris, who recently cut a precedent setting deal for the creators of South Park, is now putting together a Sun Valley-style conference to put entertainment and technology people together to bridge the divide between Hollywood and Silicon Valley.
All of these occurrences speak to the growing importance of web entertainment. In my view, there is a huge chasm that needs to be filled and all of these happenings are beginning to address it. Where do professional content producers find an outlet for their work that does not fit into the established 30 or 60-minute model we’ve become accustomed to? There will always be a place for cats playing the piano or people falling on their wedding cakes, just as it’s great that I can download Scrubs from iTunes if I missed an episode and my Tivo broke.
It’s the vast middle ground where the opportunities lie.