digital reporter

Biggies stakes its claim in new-media Wild West

Two years removed from his post as president of Spike TV, Albie Hecht and his new-media studio, Worldwide Biggies, are as busy as ever exploring the frontiers of today's Wild West media landscape.

During a preholiday afternoon, the Biggies studio in Manhattan's Hell's Kitchen is buzzing with activity. Behind one door are striking writers at work on an Internet project, standing in front of a bluescreen and dressed as an MRI technician and a weatherman. Behind another is an engineer working on "MoCap," a humorous and profane video playing off motion-capture technology that appears on Viacom's GameTrailers Web site. Another employee is programming "Worldwide Fido," a dog show for the common canine that Hecht is working to bring to TV.

Yet another computer showcases "Star vs. Star," a celebrity fantasy game joint venture with TMZ.com. And sitting in the middle of all this is Hecht's wife, Susan, who runs Shine Global, a nonprofit organization connected to Biggies that is focused on stopping the exploitation of children.

Finally, on the flat-screen TV in Hecht's sun-soaked office, the former Nickelodeon executive shows off a clip of Bigby, an animated preteen created by Biggies who fights dragons.

"This is Deadwood here," Hecht, full of energy in a lime green Lacoste shirt, says of the online entertainment space. "You can set up a homestead, a saloon. It's a place where we're all panning for gold."

Of course, living in a lawless land has its risks, Hecht says.

"You could get shot," he notes with a laugh.

A metaphorical online execution, though, is not likely for Hecht. In August, Biggies announced $9 million in funding from NBC Universal and other investors. Along with the Web content, the company also produces projects for TV, including Nickelodeon's "Naked Brothers Band" and Spike TV's "VGA Video Game Awards," and is co-producing the CGI film "Planet 51," which recently secured distribution through New Line.

In addition, Hecht is pursuing several different business models for his Web programs and games, including revenue sharing, sponsorships and download-to-own.

One of the company's biggest projects for 2008 is a digital board game based on the 1987 film "The Princess Bride." Biggies employees are working on animating, voicing and coding the game, which Hecht expects to debut in May. Along with distributing it through major game portals, Biggies also will make $24.95 gift cards available with a code that will launch the game on a user's browser.

The goal with all of his online projects, Hecht says, is to "birth the property on the Web but to embed it with multiplatform DNA." As an executive with a background in live-action and animated TV and film as well as the Web, Hecht believes that Biggies has a competitive advantage over others in the space.

"We have the expertise to take that content created on the Web and move it to other platforms," he says.

For now, though, the wilds of the Web remains the main focus for Hecht. It's a place where the longtime executive is comfortable ceding authority to one of his 22 employees ensconced in the bustling studio on the edge of Manhattan.

"I'm definitely not always the sheriff," says Hecht, who didn't have an answer when asked who is the top dog. "It's lawless. People don't want to wear that badge."
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