As entertainment executives grapple with how to best use the Internet to capture an online audience, two local companies are battling it out to bring some of Hollywood's more archaic practices up to speed.
Creative Planet Inc. and IFilm have been buying up software and Web companies over the past several months, each with plans to create an online system to help TV and movie producers manage their creations.
This month alone, IFilm acquired a database of film rights and projects in development, while Creative Planet secured a $38 million round of funding to undertake similar acquisitions.
"Television and movies have one of the worst manufacturing processes that you can imagine," said Allen DeBevoise, president and chief executive of L.A.-based Creative Planet. "It's complicated because there's hundreds of people, all in different disciplines, with no communication system other than word of mouth."
Creative Planet hopes to fix that problem by setting up a wireless communication system that would help all the crew members on productions keep in touch with each other electronically. For example, he said, if there's a location change, the assistant director would be able to send the new information simultaneously to everyone involved through either pagers, cell phones, personal digital assistants or conventional e-mail.
The company is also focusing on bolstering applications that allow entertainment executives to find and contact vendors and independent contractors via the Internet.
Meanwhile, Hollywood-based IFilm wants to create a one-stop shop of online resources and databases for the entertainment industry.
"We're saying, if you take something that works well offline and move it online, you can make it more valuable," said Kevin Wendle, IFilm's chief executive.
The company is currently transitioning its databases, some of which are currently available in thick printed books, to its Web site for professionals at www.ifilmpro.com. On the site, clients can also follow scripts through the development process or even read scripts that have been uploaded by aspiring screenwriters.
The two companies are going head to head in the area of databases and directories. They have both acquired numerous companies that publish entertainment-industry directories for finding talent, supplies and other information.
Through their respective acquisitions, both companies are strategizing to get products and services in place as the entertainment industry becomes more comfortable with using technology to conduct business. Both companies have ample financial resources to carry out their plans.
Creative Planet last week landed a $38 million investment from a group led by local venture capital firm TMCT Ventures. Waterview Advisors, the venture capital firm founded by former Universal Studios Inc. Chief Executive Frank Biondi, increased its investment in the company. SunAmerica Investments and Chase Capital Partners were also among those contributing to the venture round.
In its most recent round of funding, announced in January, IFilm received $35 million from strategic partners including Sony Pictures Entertainment, Eastman Kodak Co. and Vulcan Ventures Inc., the investment group founded by billionaire Paul Allen.
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