An out­pour­ing of orig­i­nal pro­gram­ming on­line

The Washington Post Sunday - - TV - — Reuters

es­per­ate House­wives” alum Eva Lon­go­ria’s new project won’t bring her back to ABC or to any other tra­di­tional U.S. tele­vi­sion net­work. The ac­tress will pro­duce and lend her voice to “Mother Up!,” a 13-episode adult an­i­mated com­edy avail­able in the United States this fall only on the on­line video site Hulu.

Lon­go­ria, Kevin Spacey, John Good­man and other top Hol­ly­wood ac­tors are be­ing wooed by a grow­ing num­ber of Sil­i­con Val­ley com­pa­nies rush­ing to get a foothold in con­sumers’ liv­ing rooms with ex­clu­sive shows that fea­ture big names and hefty bud­gets.

As video-stream­ing tech­nol­ogy makes watch­ing videos on lap­tops and mo­bile de­vices as easy as flick­ing on a TV set, Ama­, Google’s YouTube, Ya­hoo and Mi­crosoft are set­ting up shop in Hol­ly­wood to pro­duce or li­cense their own se­ries.

Their models are pay TV chan-

Stream­ing-video ven­tures are look­ing to eat pay TV’s lunch

nels such as HBO and Show­time that built their sub­scriber rolls by cre­at­ing such shows as HBO’s “So­pra­nos” and Show­time’s “Home­land” that a TV viewer couldn’t get any­where else.

“Con­tent cre­ators think they’ve hit the lot­tery,” said Bernard Ger­shon, head of dig­i­tal con­sul­tancy Ger­shon Me­dia and a former Walt Dis­ney ex­ec­u­tive. “Those com­pa­nies are throw­ing a lot of dol­lars for con­tent they can use to cre­ate a fol­low­ing.”

With 33 mil­lion global sub­scribers to its stream­ing ser­vice, Netflix, based in Los Gatos, Calif., can af­ford to plunk down what an­a­lysts es­ti­mate was up to $100 mil­lion for the rights to “House of Cards,” a slickly pro­duced po­lit­i­cal drama star­ring two-time Os­car win­ner Spacey and pro­duced by “The So­cial Net­work” film di­rec­tor David Fincher.

Up­com­ing only-on-Netflix se­ries in­clude a re­vival of one-time Fox com­edy “Ar­rested Devel­op­ment,” star­ring Will Ar­nett, and mur­der mys­tery “Hem­lock Grove,” di­rected by hor­ror movie pro­ducer Eli Roth.

Re­cently, the com­pany an­nounced the De­cem­ber re­lease of its first orig­i­nal chil­dren’s se­ries, a show based on Dream­Works An­i­ma­tion’s coming sum­mer movie, “Turbo,” about a fast-mov­ing snail.

The com­pa­nies have dif­fer­ent busi­ness models.

Ama­zon, Netflix and Mi­crosoft have sub­scrip­tion ser­vices. YouTube sells ad­ver­tis­ing. In­tel Corp and Ap­ple may in­tro­duce ca­ble­like ser­vices that of­fer chan­nels on­line.

But they all sense an open­ing as con­sumers in­creas­ingly chafe at their mount­ing ca­ble and satel­lite TV bills. A small, but in­creas­ing, num­ber are start­ing to “cut the cord,” or drop their ser­vice, an­a­lysts say.

“We may be sow­ing the seeds of our own de­struc­tion,” Char­lie Er­gen, chair­man of satel­lite op­er­a­tor Dish Net­work, said at the re­cent AllTh­ingsD “Dive into Me­dia” con­fer­ence. “A lot of peo­ple can live with Netflix and be per­fectly happy.”

Netflix has won fans in Hol­ly­wood by giv­ing writ­ers and direc­tors a “high level of au­ton­omy as well as an in­creas­ingly global distri­bu­tion plat­form,” Mor­gan Stan­ley an­a­lyst Scott De­vitt said in a note to clients.

“There is plenty of room for mul­ti­ple pro­duc­ers and li­cen­sors of orig­i­nal con­tent,” De­vitt said.

Ama­zon’s Prime sub­scrip­tion, which com­bines a video stream­ing ser­vice with free ship­ping for prod­ucts it sells on­line, stepped up its Hol­ly­wood deal­mak­ing in the past month with pacts to be the ex­clu­sive on­line home for pop­u­lar PBS drama “Downton Abbey” and the up­com­ing CBS show “Un­der the Dome,” a se­ries based on a Stephen King novel.

Seat­tle-based Ama­zon, seen by some an­a­lysts as Netflix’s big­gest threat, said last month that it plans to air 11 orig­i­nal pi­lot episodes be­fore de­cid­ing which to pro­duce as on­go­ing se­ries.

One of the pi­lots, “Al­pha House,” fol­lows four sen­a­tors who live to­gether in a rented house. “Roseanne” and “Argo” ac­tor John Good­man will star, ac­cord­ing to a per­son close to the sit­u­a­tion.

Over­all, Ama­zon Stu­dios has 48 movie and TV shows in devel­op­ment, an Ama­zon spokes­woman said.

Hulu, owned by me­dia giants Dis­ney, News Corp and Com­cast’s NBCUniver­sal, is beef­ing up its orig­i­nal and ex­clu­sive con­tent for its free, ad-sup­ported ser­vice and its monthly sub­scrip­tion plan. Hulu has dis­trib­uted than two dozen ex­clu­sive or orig­i­nal shows, in­clud­ing the Mor­gan Spur­lock doc­u­men­tary se­ries “A Day in the Life.”

Up­com­ing Hulu pro­grams in­clude Lon­go­ria’s “Mother Up!,” about a former mu­sic ex­ec­u­tive nav­i­gat­ing life as a sub­ur­ban mom.

Mi­crosoft, which of­fers ser­vices such as Netflix on its Xbox videogame con­sole, in­tends to pro­duce its own con­tent this year for its 40 mil­lion sub­scribers, said Nancy Tellem, a former CBS en­ter­tain­ment pres­i­dent who joined Mi­crosoft last year to run its fledg­ing Hol­ly­wood pro­duc­tion stu­dio.

“We’re not as con­strained as other con­tent cre­ators,” Tellem said at the AllTh­ingsD con­fer­ence. “We can pro­duce some­thing that’s 10 min­utes or an hour.”

The Xbox’s ben­e­fit, Tellem said, is its in­ter­ac­tiv­ity. To gen­er­ate added rev­enue, the ser­vice can sell tick­ets to con­certs by stars of its come­dies or copies of the clothes worn by stars on red car­pet events.



ON NETFLIX: Two-time Os­car win­ner Kevin Spacey in the po­lit­i­cal drama "House of Cards." one of Netflix’s ex­clu­sive on­line se­ries.


ON SHOW­TIME: “Home­land,” with Claire Danes and Mandy Patinkin, is one of the shows that served as a model for on­line se­ries.

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