Paramount, Gaumont team for Web series

Thriller 'Section Eight' to debut exclusively on MySpace

Paramount's digital unit and French producer-distributor Gaumont are teaming up for an online original series that will premiere exclusively on MySpace.

The series, titled "Section Eight," is a supernatural thriller with a "Ten Little Indians" conceit: Characters are knocked off one by one, with viewers given clues as to who is trying to kill them and why. About 12 episodes are planned, with production set for June and the first episode likely to begin streaming in September.

Unlike past efforts from the studio's digital group, "Eight" will attempt to create an entirely new content brand. "We're not relying on branded talent or a well-known franchise," Paramount Digital Entertainment president Thomas Lesinski said. "We're trying to do online original content for the first time."

The initiative follows in the footsteps of Paramount Digital Entertainment pushing off of existing properties with content like last year's "Jackass 2.5," a feature follow-up to the studio's two hit movies showcasing the male-themed gonzo adventures.

Episodes of "Section Eight" will run between six and nine minutes, execs said, and at least one new episode will premiere each week during the run. A heavy social-networking component -- viewers will be able to interact with cast as well as guess solutions to the series' puzzles -- also is planned.

Lesinski said that the episodes, which are fall in the PG-13 category, will be promoted on both MySpace and via a host of Viacom assets like MTV.

MySpace has been aggressive in the online originals space; it was the first platform to debut the Marshall Herskovitz-produced "quarterlife," among others.

After a period of MySpace exclusivity, "Eight" will go out via other platforms, including iTunes, and also could eventually be collected as a
single feature that will be distributed on DVD.

The companies are formally announcing the series Monday morning at the MIP confab in Cannes, with Endemol peddling foreign rights at the show.

About a half dozen projects are currently in development at Paramount Digital Entertainment, some of which derive from existing Par movies. But execs said they want the unit to undertake more than just online extensions of the studio's efforts.

"I think it's important that we start testing original content," Lesinski said. "It allows you more flexibility, and there's a lot more upside."