NBC picks up 'Quarterlife' series

Drama is first to leap from Web to TV

UPDATE 6:58 p.m. PT Nov. 17, 2007

Column: Nuanced 'Quarterlife' too cool for the Web

NBC has picked up Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick's critically praised Internet series "Quarterlife."

The network will air the 36 eight-minute episodes of the Web series, which premiered on MySpace.com Nov. 11, as a six-episode hour-long 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 then broken into six webisodes each.

"I've been writing one-hour stories for 34 years, I know how to that," said Herskovitz, who along with Zwick, created such cult classics as "thirtysomething," "My So-Called Life" and "Once & Again."

"Quarterlife" will get a second window on NBC in early 2008 after it concludes its run on the Internet. (HR 11/9). It will also 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," said NBC programming chief Ben Silverman. "‘Quarterlife' is yet another show that evokes their renowned storytelling skills and but is based on an innovative, new business model."

In addition to broadcast and online, NBC is also 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 partially covered by advertisers and private investors, but Herskovitz and Zwick will continue to independently deficit-financing the series through Quarterlife, Inc.

Even with that additional financial help by NBC and the network's license fee for the show, Herskovitz said "Quarterlife" is still losing money due to startup costs and the challenges of launching an Internet series. He declined to discuss the size of the license fee NBC is paying, saying only that 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 AMPTP member and exempt from the writers walkout, though the company is a WGA signatory and is looking to negotiate its own deal with he guild, Herskovitz said.

The company will also 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 the WB but made a splash on YouTube and was picked up by NBC was a web series. It was also put on fast-track broadcast development, but NBC ultimately passed on it.

The story of "Quarterlife," an ensemble show about a group of 20-somethings, also began as a pilot that didn't go, this time at ABC.

However, Herskovitz and Zwick completely 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, as head of Reveille, he met with Herskovitz and Zwick.

"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 young woman whose overly truthful video blog at quarterlife.com spills the closest secrets of her friends.