Picture develops for 60Frames
Ex-agent's firm ramps up 7 original series for Internet
A new company fronted by former UTA agent Brent Weinstein is launching the biggest slate of professionally produced originals to ever hit the Internet.
60Frames Entertainment is introducing seven shortform video series that feature contributions from writers and talent drawn from TV programming at NBC and Comedy Central. The slate is the first wave of as many as 50 different series that will go online this year, with more contributions to come from Hollywood veterans including Joel and Ethan Coen, Tom Fontana and John August.
"If we can have a batting average that is as good or better than traditional media companies, than we'll do well," Weinstein said.
Rather than rely solely on a single destination site, 60Frames will syndicate its series via a range of major online hubs, including MySpace, iTunes, Bebo and YouTube. 60Frames makes money through advertising revenue splits with those distribution partners, which retain control of ad sales, though 60Frames eventually will sell its own sponsorships through Internet ad agency Spot Runner.
First announced in July, 60Frames was incubated by Spot Runner and UTA while Weinstein was still at the agency as head of its online division. The venture was launched with $3.5 million in Series A funding from Tudor Investment and Pilot Group.
60Frames functions as a full-service agency for content creators looking to work online, providing everything from lighting equipment to marketing. The firm's selling point: creators retain ownership and control of the intellectual property, which enables them to sell it to other mediums, though 60Frames retains a passive interest.
The company is attempting to provide a nimbler option than establishment-media firms that could seek a stake in any such venture, or limit options on other mediums to distribution channels they own.
60Frames' outlay of upfront financing also is a plus. Rather than wait for sponsors to fund a launch, 60Frames' model allows for production on a handful of episodes, which it distributes and then gathers viewer data to entice advertisers to finance more episodes. That was the model employed for "Who What Wear TV," an extension of the fashion Web site of the same name that is one of the seven new series.
Only a few ventures to date have made shortform episodic programming viable online, including "Prom Queen," a production from Big Fantastic and Michael Eisner's firm Vuguru. However, modest budgets and brief running times keep production costs down to just four-figure dollar amounts per episode.
The projects first out of the gate at 60Frames include "Erik the Librarian Mysteries," from "The Office" producer Brent Forrester, about a demented librarian. The series also features "Office's" Mindy Kaling. A pair of Comedy Central veterans also have 60Frames projects: Wendi McLendon-Covey ("Reno 911!"), who created and stars in "G.I.L.F.," which revolves around the adventures of an oversexed thirtysomething grandmother, and two different series for "Halfway Home" star Jordan Black in which he parodies pop culture, "Black Version" and "Phake TV."
Big Fantastic will take another shot at online glory with 60Frames, producing its first comedy series, "Cockpit," as part of the initial slate. Another online troupe, the Post Show, contributes "Douche Beach: A Love Story."
While the first 60Frames' slate is all comedy, it expects to add dramas and unscripted programs in the coming months. The venture is attracting WGA writers, though 60Frames is not a company affected by the strike given that it has no association with major media companies.