Google Backs a New Show on the Web

June 30, 2008 - Google, which has largely stayed away from producing its own content, is experimenting with a new method for distributing original material on the Web, and some Hollywood film financiers are betting millions that the company will succeed.

In September, Seth MacFarlane, creator of an American television series called "The Family Guy," will introduce a carefully guarded new project called "Seth MacFarlane's Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy." Unlike "Family Guy," which airs on the Fox television network, this show will appear exclusively on the Internet.
The innovative part involves the distribution plan. MacFarlane cut a deal with Google under which the company will syndicate the program using its AdSense advertising system to thousands of Web sites that are gathering places for MacFarlane's target audience, typically young men. Instead of placing a static ad on a Web page, Google will place a "Cavalcade" video clip.

Advertising will be incorporated into the clips in varying ways. In some cases, there will be "preroll" ads, which ask viewers to sit through a TV-style commercial before getting to the video. Some advertisers may opt for a banner to be placed at the bottom of the video clip or a simple "brought to you by" note at the beginning.

MacFarlane, who will receive a percentage of the ad revenue, has created a stable of new characters to star in the animated series, which will be served up in 50 two-minute episodes.

For a more substantial fee, MacFarlane has been working with advertisers to animate original commercials that will run with "Cavalcade." Although they would not reveal any of the advertisers, both Google and MacFarlane said several deals were among the largest in the history of AdSense, which made its debut in 2003.

Google until now has only dabbled with distributing original content. In May, it announced a deal with The Washington Post to distribute real estate listings from the newspaper's Web site in a similar manner.

But the partnership with MacFarlane marks a bigger step into the distribution business, one that, if successful, could send shock waves through the entertainment business. "Cavalcade" is not only from a high-profile Hollywood talent, but also carries a multimillion-dollar production price tag, which is by far the largest amount spent on original Internet content to date.

"We feel that we have re-created the mass media," said Kim Malone Scott, director of sales and operations for AdSense.

Until now, budgets for original Web video programs have generally peaked in the low six figures, because creators have not been able to figure out a business model that allows for higher spending. Either advertisers have not wanted to pay, or it has been too difficult to attract a large enough audience to support the cost of television- or movie-quality work.

But Media Rights Capital, a boutique production company that invests about $400 million a year in movies, television and Internet episodes, thinks it has figured out a sustainable business model with the Google Content Network. Every time someone clicks on one of the syndicated videos, the associated advertiser pays a fee, with shares going to MacFarlane, Media Rights, Google and the Web site that generated the click.

"We believe the revenue could be formidable," said Karl Austen, a lawyer who worked on the deal. "What is exciting is that this is a way to monetize the Internet immediately. Instead of creating a Web site and hoping Seth's fans find it, we are going to push the content to where people are already at."

Media Rights sells the advertising inventory. Asif Satchu, the company's co-chief executive, would not reveal how much advertisers were being asked to pay, except to say that it is "significantly higher" than if they were placing the same ad with AdSense.

Endeavor, a Hollywood talent agency, helped shepherd MacFarlane through the negotiations, which got started during a recent gap in the animator's contract with 20th Century Fox. MacFarlane said he wanted to take a stab at an original Internet program because he was feeling constrained by the "taste police" - the Federal Communication Commission.

Sitting in his office wearing jeans and a white T-shirt, MacFarlane described feeling stifled as a comedian by a crackdown in recent years on what the FCC saw as unsuitable language and stories on American television. MacFarlane said he believed that the public's appetite for raunchy humor and coarse language was only expanding and that television networks like Fox were having a harder time, in part because they had to tread carefully.

Each "Cavalcade" installment is different, a typical one titled "Mad Cow Disease." The clip, which is 38 seconds long, opens with a news anchor reporting on an outbreak of the disease in a dry fashion, detailing the debilitating effects of eating tainted beef. The clip cuts to a bull and a cow seated in a tidy kitchen with giant steaks on their plates.

MacFarlane, 34, has more at stake than just adding some more money to his already sizable fortune. (His new contract with Fox, signed this spring, is valued at nine figures.) Part of the goal is to use the venture as a testing ground for new material and a way to ignite attention. At the very least, "Cavalcade" will become a DVD, but the hope is that part of the series will register with audiences and perhaps lead to television or even animated movie projects.

Indeed, in a watch-what-you-want, when-you-want world, the standard processes of rolling out new television programs is breaking down. Even a decade ago, putting a new show on a network schedule would ensure wide exposure; people would either respond or they wouldn't. Today, with dwindling television ratings, creators like MacFarlane have to find new ways of introducing new material.

Nobody knows how content can catch fire in unexpected ways more than MacFarlane. In 2002, "Family Guy" was canceled for poor ratings after running for three seasons. But the irreverent series continued to make new fans through DVD sales.

In 2005, the network reversed itself, citing strong DVD sales, and "Family Guy" has gone on to be one of the biggest comedy hits on American television.

Originally published by The New York Times Media Group.

(c) 2008 International Herald Tribune. All rights Reserved.

Stuff is starting to get a lot more interesting with this Internet thing. It might actually catch on one day...


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My last feature film KILLING DOWN is slowly starting to pop up in places around the globe. As you know distribution is very difficult to get and then once you do get it (if you get it) it's usually a slow go for the film to be released.

Sold the foreign rights back in fall of 2006 (at the American Film Market) and just two months ago it was released in Greece on DVD (several other territories have been sold, but movie has just not been released yet). That's it so far, until now.

My friend Julio Cedillo, and on of the leads of KILLING DOWN was in Mexico last week on a film shoot. He went back to his hotel to get some rest, turned on the TV and low and behold KILLING DOWN was on Movie City - I assume this is like a premium cable channel in Latin America. This is the first I'd heard of the film showing up on television. And it's pretty cool I must say. Never happened to me before in the 12 years I've been trying to get stuff produced and sold. So we're all pretty pumped about it. As a matter of fact, Julio was so pumped he actually took a picture of the TV screen. Thanks Julio!

If anyone else is traveling abroad and sees the movie on TV or in a DVD store, etc. PLEASE LET ME KNOW. I'm very interested to hear how it plays to audiences. I pretty routinely check for comments, reviews, ratings, etc. and they too are starting to trickle in.

BTW, the U.S. DVD will tentatively be released December 3rd this year.

So hopefully over time people will get a chance to check out the movie and enjoy it. As a filmmaker that's really all you can hope for.


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Bollywood Dreams

Good article in the WSJ about Bollywood bringing capital into Hollywood (mainly India's Reliance Big Entertainment to invest in DreamWorks).

One of my entertainment attorney's Mark Litwak is quoted in the story...

Foreign financiers are one set of investors who have knocked on Hollywood's door for years, trying to make money by financing films -- a nearly impossible task. "Frankly, most movie deals don't make a lot of financial sense because while some films make money, most films either break even or lose money," said Mark Litwak, an attorney who works on film financing.

Click here to read entire piece.


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'Tipping Points' for Mobile TV

This is very interesting and relevant for "Pink" and mobile distribution...

June 20, 2008 - LONDON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--QuickPlay Media, a leading provider of mobile TV and video solutions, has revealed the results of an independent Market Tools survey focused on mobile TV and video consumption in the UK.

The research found that there are several barriers preventing people from consuming TV and video content on their mobile phones, including a lack of awareness of the mobile TV and video services offered (44%) and cost (33%) ��" the latter, a barrier that is set to erode as 'all-you-can-eat’ data plans become more prevalent in the market place.

The demand for consumers to watch mobile TV is there, with 65 percent of respondents stating that they are willing to spend time watching an advertisement if it meant that the mobile TV or video content they consume is free or discounted. On the other side of the coin, if mobile TV and video were to be charged for, 22 percent said that they would prefer a pay-per-use business model and 13 percent outlined a preference for an additional monthly subscription that would deliver the content without advertisements.

"Operators across the world have invested heavily in improving their network structures to handle high-speed data transfer, but as an industry it seems that we are challenged by the last hurdle in marketing and selling these innovative data-based services to the public. There is a clear lack of awareness by end-users about what services they can enjoy, and what it will cost them to start watching," commented Wayne Purboo, CEO of QuickPlay Media.

Purboo added "The survey shows that perceived cost is a key barrier to mobile TV and video consumption in the UK so one option for operators and content owners is an advertising-based mobile TV and video offering ��" a solution that we have successfully rolled out with some of our customers in other parts of the world. Furthermore, the shift by European operators to offer unlimited data packages will start to remove the barriers for consumers to test and adopt data-based services such as mobile TV and video."

Two in five people have watched TV and video content on their mobile phone, with many now regularly using such services. 18 percent of those that have tried a mobile TV and video service watch on a weekly basis, with more than a third watching almost on a daily basis.

For consumers that are currently using mobile TV and video, the research highlights that as many as 46 percent have used it at home, an interesting statistic considering that consumers have other platforms available to them, such as TV and computers, to consume TV and video content. In relation to this, 30 percent stated that they would watch mobile TV and video in between activities and 28 percent said it was a service that they used while in transit.

Other interesting findings of the survey include:

Nearly half of respondents (44%) do not know if their mobile operator even offers a mobile TV and video service and a third (33%) of those questioned cited cost as the main barrier for not accessing mobile TV.

Two-thirds (65%) of consumers said they are willing to watch an advertisement on their mobile phone in order to access free or discounted TV and video content.

41% of consumers have already watched TV or videos on a mobile phone, with 18% of those consumers watching more than once a week

As many as 33 percent have watched TV or video on their mobile for up to 60 minutes or longer.

41 percent of those surveyed would consider the ability to pause and resume content a deciding factor in whether or not they would watch longer forms of content, such as a full-length movie, on a mobile device.

72 percent do not recall having viewed advertisements on their mobile handset. For those that had 53 percent said these were received as SMS/text ads, and 34 percent said that they were video ads.

When compared against the results of a US study of mobile consumers with comparable demographic profiles the results were very similar suggesting that habits and preferences of consumers, as well as the maturity of both markets, reflect each other

All very interesting, especially the part about people not minding ads to get "free" content. This is good. Now maybe I can actually get paid for all this work. :)


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Indie Film (Distribution) Is Dead

It really sucks to be in independent film right now. Another "indie" label has bit the dust...

June 5, 2008 - LOS ANGELES -- Paramount Pictures said Wednesday it will combine its marketing, distribution and production functions with indie label Paramount Vantage. Rob Moore, vice chairman of Paramount Pictures, said in a statement provided Wednesday that the combination of the two Los Angeles-based units of Viacom Inc. will be more efficient.

The merger will initially result in the loss of three executive positions, said a person familiar with the situation who was not authorized to comment publicly and requested anonymity.

It was unclear if further jobs might be lost or when the combination will occur, the person said.

Paramount Vantage, which produced the double Oscar-winner "There Will Be Blood" released last year, is the latest indie movie label to be merged into the larger operations of the same company.

Time Warner Inc. said last month it would close its Picturehouse and Warner Independent Pictures film studios and eliminate 70 jobs.

That followed the layoff of 450 people at New Line Cinema, which was absorbed into Warner Bros.

These companies of course call their "indies" under $25 million (or so), which doesn't compute to true indie filmmakers - BUT, I'm not talking about production here. I'm talking DISTRIBUTION which is the end game and in reality the hardest part of the entire process.

For example, I finished my last indie feature film back in 2006. Got foreign distribution rather quickly (which is not the normal case I assure you), but we just signed a domestic DVD deal in the last few months. So two years to sell the film. And we're actually lucky. 95% of all indie films NEVER SELL. Even films that play at Sundance.

Indie filmmaking is a lot of fun. But as a business model it has never been good and with these recent events it's virtually dead I'm sorry to say.


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Hollywood Reporter Blurb

Hey ANY press is good press! "Pink" got a small mention in the Hollywood Reporter today...

Check it out here.

I didn't realize the series was a "cult hit". :)


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Who Am I?

I'm a filmmaker who's produced & directed five feature films including the comedy SPILT MILK (available on iTunes), the new horror/thriller PHOBIA (on iTunes) and the action/thiller KILLING DOWN (which you can buy or rent at pretty much all the usual places).

I also created the Streamy and Webby award-winning web series PINK, which to date has been viewed online around 10 MILLION times at places like YouTube, Hulu, Koldcast and And speaking of, I also produced and directed an online thriller for them called EXPOSED. It was released summer 2010. And most recently I created a new online sci-fi series called CONTINUUM, which is part of the online indie TV network - Just The Story and NOW available via VOD through indie platform Distrify.

Oh, and I don't shoot weddings. Thanks for asking though.

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