60Frames to give content creators online boost

The start-up, funded with $3.5 million from United Talent Agency and Spot Runner, is hoping to take on the traditional studio model of video content distribution.

Got a great idea for a TV show but don't want to deal with going through the traditional Hollywood studio system vetting and production process?

Or maybe you don't even want your show on TV at all, what with the Internet offering so many different distribution opportunities?

Then a Los Angeles start-up called 60Frames Entertainment may well be your ticket to the director's chair.

The company, founded with $3.5 million from investors United Talent Agency (UTA) and Spot Runner, is geared toward providing a wide variety of content creators with the financing and resources they need to produce and distribute original programming across the sites of Internet partners like YouTube, MySpace.com, Bebo, and soon, Joost.

To begin with, 60Frames is supporting two projects, Cockpit, a comedy which "explores what really happens inside the cockpit of a commercial airline." The series is by Big Fantastic, the team of Douglas Cheney, Chris Hampel, Chris McCaleb, and Ryan Wise, which produced Prom Queen for Michael Eisner's start-up, Vuguru.

The new series Cockpit, by the producers of the online show Prom Queen, is one of the first series that 60Frames will distribute to partners like YouTube, Bebo, and others. 60Frames

"It's an incredible opportunity for creators to get their work out there," McCaleb said of 60Frames. "It's a whole new vision of what an entertainment company can be. It puts the power in the hands of the creators. It's an artist's dream."

That's because, McCaleb said, 60Frames is putting the creative power in the hands of the people creating the content. He said that while his team went through some production meetings with 60Frames, he didn't recall having to submit a budget.

Another early 60Frames project is Erik the Librarian Mysteries, which "follows a reclusive librarian who falls in love with a mysterious stranger." It is from Brent Forrester, a consulting producer for The Office.

Another future effort will be an as-yet unspecified project by well-known filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen, otherwise known as the Coen Brothers.

60Frames is not talking much about its business model, though it does depend on advertising relationships with its distribution partners. And the company plans to share revenue from the projects with the artists, once they're profitable.

"The basic spirit of the agreement (with artists) is that we're going to spend money and resources getting (projects) to market," said Brent Weinstein, CEO of 60Frames. "And as soon as we're profitable, we become financial partners with our artists and collaborators."

To one Hollywood observer, however, 60Frames' model is a little suspect.

"The problem is monetizing it," said Mark Litvack, an intellectual-property attorney who has worked for Sony, Time Warner, and Disney. "(That's the) difficulty with any project such as this."

Litvack, who has not been briefed by 60Frames, said that while projects such as LonelyGirl15 have managed to be successful financially online, it is extremely rare. More common, he said, are Internet hits that breed large fan bases, but few dollars.

"One of the classic cases is ( Eepy Bird ), the Diet Coke and Mentos guys," Litvack said. "Those guys were a huge hit. Many, many people saw (their videos) but the people who made them didn't become rich off it."

However, the 60Frames model does afford artists some significant advantages, Litvack allowed.

"For those that think that the studios control all methods of distribution, they don't," he said. "The Internet provides a very low-cost way of distributing content to literally billions of people."

And McCaleb agreed that for him and the Cockpit team, working with 60Frames and having the opportunity to have their work showcased on sites like YouTube, MySpace, Bebo, and others, is extremely valuable.

"As a creator, having all those different distribution platforms, it's so key," McCaleb said. "Having your content be so ubiquitous, it's just awesome for us."

And that's what 60Frames is hoping to leverage. The company is not yet talking in detail about its financial arrangements with its strategic partners, but it does say that in arranging to have its artists' content distributed on sites like YouTube, 60Frames worked with the advertising divisions of each distributor.

To Weinstein, the opportunity such sites offer is massive and wide-spread distribution for content that could bring in money from a variety of different advertising methods. Among them are product placement, as well as placing ads before or after the content.

For his part, Litvack said he is optimistic about product placement deals, but suspicious of putting ads either before or after content.

"It tends to discourage people from watching," Litvack said. "If you have an option of watching something with an ad in it or not an ad in it," you're likely to choose the latter.

 

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