David A. Neuman

President

Digital Entertainment Network

Santa Monica

At the top of David A. Neuman's to-do list is "Replace Television" and he's not talking about taking a trip to the local Circuit City.

He's among those focused on creating an entirely new medium.

While many Internet entertainment sites are merely repackaging existing fare from music, TV, and motion pictures, Neuman's Digital Entertainment Network creates original programming. And unlike mainstream media programming, DEN's content is narrowly focused to attract a Generation Y audience (14- to 24-year-olds).

Because Gen Y is such a desirable demographic, and DEN's overhead is relatively low, Neuman's online network doesn't need massive ratings to be economically viable.

Just like teen-agers of generations past, Gen-Yers have great influence over how their peers dress, what they eat, and the music they listen to. So advertisers capturing the attention of this coveted group can influence emerging trends, and even lifelong brand-buying decisions.

"We stay true to the Gen-Y subculture by not having to 'bland-down' our programming," said the 38-year-old Neuman.

Garth Ancier, president of NBC Entertainment, calls him a "visionary... David proved many of us wrong when he left producing to run (education cable operation) Channel One."

Neuman was Channel One's president of programming from 1992 to 1996, as well as executive producer of its newscast. It obviously influenced his decision to focus on Gen Yers, because Channel One broadcasts its programming to some 12,000 secondary schools nationwide. (The channel has been highly controversial, because it exposes kids to paid ads in school settings. In exchange, Channel One supplies schools with TV sets and programming free of charge.)

In his role at DEN, Neuman is leading the coming broadband parade by targeting that same Gen-Y audience with interactive fare like "Fear of a Punk Planet," the Latino-oriented "Tales from the Eastside," and extreme sports show "Aggronation."

Clicking onto any of the program icons on the site (www.den.com) provides a basic description of the characters, plot setup and back episodes. (All episodes are archived and available at all times, the ultimate form of reruns.) Each show lasts about six to 10 minutes. The site generates revenues by selling banner ads to various advertisers.

Neuman is no neophyte to mainstream TV, having been president of Disney Network Television. But now that he's free of the bureaucracy of network TV, he boldly trumpets its demise. "The days of the network television paradigm are over, and good riddance," he says.

DEN's offerings are tailored to viewing on a computer, rather than TV or movie screens. "Making shows for the Internet impacts the way we shoot, edit, use art direction, and even the wardrobe," says Neuman. "No choppy or blurred pictures here."

That's accomplished by boosting the number of pixels (color dots) in each frame of content, with the result being a smoother streaming.

Far more users will likely be exposed to DEN's growing interactive environment in the months and years ahead, as the number of broadband households skyrockets.

Daniel Guss

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