Web programmer 60Frames shutters

Funding problems sink UTA-backed venture

60Frames Entertainment is suspending operations because of a lack of funding, according to a source close to the company.

The UTA-backed firm, one of the first to specialize in the creation and financing of video programming for the Internet, is laying off its seven remaining employees. 60Frames dropped six staffers in October.

A spokeswoman for 60Frames declined comment.

Oddly, the fatal flaw for 60Frames was not a shortage of opportunities. The firm sold as many webisodes as any of its competitors to such top buyers as TheWB.com, Sony's Crackle and FunnyOrDie. 60Frames had even managed to sell one Web project, "The Carpet Bros.," as a TV pilot to HBO, with former "Saturday Night Live" writer Jeff Piedmont attached.

Sources familiar with the company's travails pinned the problem on the sluggish nature of dealmaking online and bad timing on the fundraising front. The company was thwarted in its attempt to secure a second round of financing just as the U.S. economy soured.

60Frames execs are exploring options to resuscitate the company, though it is unlikely in a depressed marketplace.

The shuttering likely will send a shudder through the nascent digital-entertainment category, which is struggling to produce meaningful revenue as ad dollars and venture capital dry up in a tough economy. Remaining players include Generate, Next New Networks, Deca and Worldwide Biggies.

60Frames isn't the first in the category to go. A similar digital entertainment venture, ManiaTV, shut down in March following its own round of layoffs in October.

Launched with support from UTA and next-gen ad-agency Spot Runner in July 2007, 60Frames was started with $3.5 million in funding from Tudor Investment Corp., the Pilot Group and unspecified individuals. At the time of 60Frames' closing, UTA had no active involvement in the company but retained a small minority position and funneled some of its talent into the 60Frames projects.

Led by former UTA agent Brent Weinstein, the firm boasted association with established talent ranging from filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen to "Oz" creator Tom Fontana.

60Frames intended to produce as many as 50 shortform series and had released more than 30.

60Frames struck a deal last year with NBC Universal Digital Studio to supply a slate of original series that would get greenlighted once a sponsor was attached. But nothing materialized, with advertisers these days gun-shy about experimental programming.

TheWB.com recently picked up "Blood Cell," an online horror series from 60Frames. The 18-webisode series was to feature Jessica Rose, best known for the 2006 Internet sensation that made LonelyGirl15 a household name. A second project, "Lily's Tomb," also was in the hopper at TheWB.com.