Ben Silverman dissects 'Lone Star' axe

Jimmy Pitaro: Financials wouldn't work if series was on Yahoo

NEW YORK -- Yahoo vp media Jimmy Pitaro, Electus founder and CEO Ben Silverman and Bravo's Andy Cohen discussed how difficult it is to launch successful TV and Web shows here Wednesday and how models for both media differ.

During an Advertising Week panel discussion, they referenced Fox's first fall show cancellation as an example. As part of a debate about what defines a hit in the TV and Internet spaces, the topic of the need for a big TV audience came up. "Like 'Lone Star'?," Silverman deadpanned.

He later told The Hollywood Reporter that he liked the show -- as did many critics -- but it somehow didn't find a big-enough audience to stay on TV.

Panelist Andy Cohen, senior vp of original programming and development, Bravo, asked if retaining part of the 4.1 million viewers of "Lone Star" on Monday could make it a success on Yahoo.

Even if one cut a primetime show's production budget in half, the financials would not work out for the online firm, Pitaro said. As the panel started discussing the likely cost of the show, Silverman drew laughs by saying: "I think we shouldn't dive into that."

Pitaro on Wednesday also highlighted that Yahoo is looking to change its approach to online video programming. "We want to move off the one-off concept" and instead make people come back like on television, he told the crowd.

While most decisions on content projects is currently driven by data proving that a show will have a big enough audience, "the next phase of our evolution ... is we'll focus more on what our editors and creators think," Pitaro said. "We haven't had a 'Friends' or 'Seinfeld' on Yahoo media sites," which may require taking some chances and accepting some failures,
he added.

One show that he has high hopes for is "Ready. Set. Dance!," which Electus and Yahoo launched Wednesday together with sponsor State Farm. "It's actually a show that I could see living on TV," the first Yahoo show of that sort, Pitaro said.

The show, which targets young adults, taps into the pop culture interest in TV dance shows and dance videos on the Web and is available on Yahoo Music. Silverman described "Ready. Set. Dance" as " 'Candid Camera' meets 'Flashmob.' "

He told THR that more such shows that are more affordable to produce than traditional TV, but are based on content with an existing fan base that can be amplified are in the works under the Yahoo partnership.

Pitaro didn't address rumors of his impending departure from Yahoo, instead quipping about Silverman's past position as NBC programmer.

But Pitaro did say that Yahoo "would love to establish upfronts for online" to add structure to the creative and advertising sales process on the Web.

Asked about what media giants must look out for in terms of online video, Silverman said they must keep in mind where key content is available. "If you get '30 Rock' everywhere, it doesn't differentiate it anymore," he said.

And he said companies must realize that consumers' time is split not only between shows and other traditional media content, but also digital offers.

" 'Farmville' is as popular on some level as 'Glee' is on some level," he said.
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