LivePlanet is making news by covering virtual worlds

Goal is to be genre's 'media agency'

Are virtual worlds ready for a CNN to call their own?

LivePlanet, the multiplatform production company behind HBO's "Project Greenlight" and MSN's "Fan Club: Reality Baseball," is launching Virtual Worlds Prods., a media organization that will cover the burgeoning space of virtual worlds.

Two of the biggest online environments, Second Life and World of Warcraft, will get their own branded news services. Their respective publications, Gridworldnews.com and Azerothwn.com, also will serve as beachheads for launching other virtual-only entertainment and community offerings.

The goal is to position LivePlanet as the dominant media force in virtual worlds the way Time Warner or News Corp. approach the real world, LivePlanet president and CEO Larry Tanz said.

"We're trying to be the uber-media agency that services virtual worlds for information and other things," he said. "Advertising, classifieds and personals will follow the content — content is just the first foray into it."

A team of 30 journalists will be embedded in Second Life and WOW, covering the millions of users in both worlds with a mix of serious reportage and tongue-in-cheek reviews. The team will be led by James Root, a former business development manager with Microsoft Corp.'s digital media division, and Tina Courtney, a former Walt Disney Internet Group producer who will serve as editor in chief.

LivePlanet won't be the first to infiltrate virtual words. Reuters has a dedicated beat reporter stationed in Second Life, where the company constructed a virtual headquarters. LivePlanet has no plans to erect a similar edifice at this time.

In addition to producing films like the upcoming documentary "Running the Sahara," LivePlanet has a track record executing cutting-edge content ideas, from the shortform video series "Finish Our Movie" for Bud.tv to "PhoneTag," a game incorporating GPS on mobile devices that will be available in the fall via Sprint Nextel.

"We're always finding ways to create content and entertainment across different media platforms," Tanz said. "We like to do things that provide interactivity for our audience."

Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, who are among the founders of LivePlanet, are not involved in Virtual Worlds Prods.
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