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NBC has picked up Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick’s Internet series “Quarterlife.”
The network will air the 36 eight-minute episodes of the Web series, which premiered Nov. 11 on MySpace, as a six-episode, hourlong drama.
“This is really a new form that doesn’t pertain to any other series or program out there,” Herskovitz said.
“Quarterlife” will have a smooth transition to the small screen because it was conceived as six one-hour story arcs that were broken into six webisodes each.
“I’ve been writing one-hour stories for 34 years; I know how to do that,” said Herskovitz, who along with Zwick created such cult classics as “thirtysomething,” “My So-Called Life” and “Once and Again.”
“Quarterlife” will get a second window on NBC in early 2008 after it concludes its run online (HR 11/9). It also will be streamed on NBC.com.
“Ed and Marshall are well-respected TV veterans that repeatedly have demonstrated a creative voice that resonates with a wide audience,” NBC programming chief Ben Silverman said. ” ‘Quarterlife’ is yet another show that evokes their renowned storytelling skills and is based on an innovative, new business model.”
In addition to broadcast and online, NBC also is getting DVD and foreign distribution rights to “Quarterlife” as well as an equity stake in Quarterlife.com, the show’s companion social network site that also posts “Quarterlife” episodes a day after their premiere on MySpace. Herskovitz and Zwick will retain 100% ownership and creative control of the series.
NBC will pitch in on production and Web development costs for “Quarterlife” that had been covered partially by advertisers and private investors, but Herskovitz and Zwick will continue to independently deficit-finance the series through Quarterlife Inc.
Even with the additional financial help by NBC and the network’s license fee for the show, Herskovitz said “Quarterlife” is losing money because of startup costs and the challenges of launching an Internet series. He declined to discuss the size of the license fee NBC is paying but said it is “substantially less than what they would normally pay for a drama series.”
“It’s a bargain for them, and it’s giving us the level of ownership and control we wanted,” he said of the deal.
What’s more, “Quarterlife” is strike-proof because as an independent Internet production company, Quarterlife Inc. is not an Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers member and is exempt from the writers walkout, though the company is a WGA signatory and looking to negotiate its own deal with he guild, Herskovitz said.
The company also will have to work out terms with the guilds on compensating its WGA- and SAG-affiliated talent now that the show created for the Web will air on network TV.
There is no template for that because “Quarterlife” is the first Internet series to make the leap to television. Bill Lawrence came close with the comedy “Nobody’s Watching,” whose pilot missed the cut at WB Network but made a splash on YouTube and was picked up by NBC as a Web series. It also was put on fast-track development, but NBC passed on it.
The story of “Quarterlife,” an ensemble show about a group of twentysomethings, also began as a pilot that didn’t go, this time at ABC. Herskovitz and Zwick then reconceived the show for the Internet, only keeping the title from the ABC project.
All scripts for “Quarterlife” — penned by creators Herskovitz and Zwick, actor-writer Devon Gummersall and Lucy Teitler — have been written, and most episodes have been shot. Herskovitz has directed several of the segments, along with Eric Stoltz, John Sacret Young and Catherine Jelski. Josh Gummersall is producing.
Silverman first became interested in “Quarterlife” in March 2007, when he met with Herskovitz and Zwick as head of Reveille.
“When they showed me the pilot, I knew it was something special,” Silverman said.
However, back then, “We were both independent production companies, so there wasn’t a business model for us to be partners,” Herskovitz said. “But Ben was such a champion of ‘Quarterlife’ even at that time, so when he went to NBC, he came to us right away.”
In the summer, the network inked a right-of-first-refusal deal, which led to the acquisition.
“Quarterlife” centers on Dylan (Bitsie Tulloch), a woman whose overly truthful video blog at Quarterlife.com spills the closest secrets of her friends.
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