Daly expands domain with Net projects

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Carson Daly made his mark in television, but he is ready to prove himself all over again on the Internet.

Daly is already a household name among younger audiences thanks to his late-night show on NBC, "Last Call With Carson Daly," and before that as emcee of MTV's "Total Request Live." But he also has been busy lately in a lower-profile role through his production company, Carson Daly Prods., cultivating a distinctive side career creating programming for digital platforms.

"I can't compete with the Dick Wolfs of the world and those producing 'The Office' or 'My Name Is Earl,' " Daly said. "We don't have a tremendous amount of money, which leads me back to the Internet because with $5,000, we can do a lot now."

Though well situated in the TV world though a production deal at NBC Universal Television Studio, Daly has chosen to focus his production company on Internet projects. In June, it awarded 20-year-old Brooke Brodack a talent/development deal on the strength of her video commentaries on YouTube. It was the first time an established Hollywood figure struck a formal arrangement with an unknown off the Internet.

Daly has since utilized Brodack's madcap style on a Web site he launched with NBC Uni, "It's Your Show," which rewards video contributors with cash prizes. Daly expects the site to sprout social-networking capabilities as well as a television component featuring himself as the show's host.

Daly also is involved with Campus MovieFest, serving as strategic adviser for the online film festival hub and to more than 50,000 students from colleges nationwide. Like all his digital endeavors, the site caters to a college-age demographic and who Daly sees as his peers on the Web.

His Web-centric approach has proven particularly timely in light of the recent rise of MySpace and YouTube, the emergence of such Web personalities as LonelyGirl15 and Andy Milonakis, and the integration of new-media strategies by television networks and studios. But his preoccupation with the online world has earned him a few quizzical looks in traditional Hollywood circles.

"I talk about this stuff in my agency at Endeavor, in meetings at NBC, and people just look at me like 'What is wrong with you?' " Daly said.

"He was always very plugged in to new artists and new approaches to things -- and still is," said Tony DiSanto, executive vp series, development and animation at MTV and head of programming at MTV2. "But that has sort of translated into whatever medium he's working in, whether it be the Internet, TV or the movies and whether it's behind the scenes or behind the camera."
Often associated with New York from his "TRL" days, Daly was born in Santa Monica, where he currently lives. Sitting in his home, the traits of a Southern California native are evident in his deep tan and casual attire of long beach shorts and flip-flops.

He first broke through as a disc jockey in the mid-1990s, initially at a San Francisco alternative station and later at Los Angeles' KROQ. Those roots inform his company's strategic outlook to this day.

"Being in music, I fell victim to the digital side pretty early," he said. "Downloading music has single-handedly crippled my former business, so I sort of learned the hard way about the power of the Internet. I thought, if you can't beat them, join them."

He transitioned to "video jockey" in 1998 at "TRL," the afternoon music video countdown show that catapulted Daly to nationwide popularity. He credits that experience with giving him an open mind to discovering Internet talent.

"I remember the first time we watched Eminem -- a white guy rapping -- and half the room was laughing," Daly recalled. "But my view was that this guy could be insanely popular and talented. There's a fine line between absolute ridiculousness and genius."

Developing a discerning eye has served him well since moving from MTV to NBC in 2002, from the launch of his company to a brief stint running a small record label. An inveterate Web surfer, Daly happened upon the homemade videos created by Brodack, a onetime restaurant hostess who developed a following on YouTube with her spirited monologues about pop culture.

"She has a voice, she has an opinion, she's crazy, and I couldn't stop watching her," said Daly, who praised her editing style and soundtracks.

Since signing her, Daly has been focusing on Brodack's role in helping to virally promote "Show," along with the creation of a TV component for her.

Brodack, who has never met Daly in person, continues to furiously create her brand of video content out of her bedroom in Holden, Mass. She said her visibility has skyrocketed since linking up with Daly.

"I didn't realize how big it all was until my sister's husband said I was the No. 18 most-googled person in the world, right up there with George Bush," Brodack said.

Daly also is keen on taking Campus MovieFest to the next level. Having recently appeared at the festival's finale event in San Jose, Calif., he foresees taking some aspect of the fest to television and establishing it as a launchpad for up-and-coming directors.

The entrepreneurial verve he brings to new media also has a family connection. Daly's sister, Quinn Daly, works for Richard Rosenblatt, former chairman of MySpace and former CEO of MySpace's onetime parent company Intermix, who brokered the sale of the site to News Corp. Rosenblatt has helped inform Daly's Internet acumen.

While Daly still aspires to ascend to greater heights in the TV talk show realm, these days he considers himself a businessman capitalizing on the excitement of the digital world.

"The landscape is changing so dramatically that in a year from now every network will already be earmarking their 'new-media money,' " Daly said. "I want Carson Daly Prods. to be a launching pad to break talent -- that's what 'TRL' did, it was a stage," Daly said. "That's why people handed me their CD and looked at me like, 'Hey, can you help me make it?' That's a great business to be in."
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