For months, venture capitalists have been hinting that an unheralded software company in L.A. was about to launch with something revolutionary. After more than two years of research and development, millions in funding from the venture capital arms of Global Crossing Ltd. and Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette Securities Corp. and partnerships with two big local studios, Rotor Inc. is finally ready for prime time.

Rotor's software allows producers to launch television-like netcasts that are truly interactive, meaning the audience can interact with characters in real time.

The company has developed a player allowing users to log on to designated events and influence the action by answering polls and asking questions. With that information, the Internet show can be quickly tailored to topics the audience is interested in.

"Unlike what's currently being offered on the Net in terms of streaming video, Rotor actually allows viewers to participate as something is happening, influence the show and take part in the program so they are invested," said Adam Tyler, Rotor's senior vice president of entertainment, responsible for production and programming tasks.

Long development process

Instead of rushing to market as content companies popped up left and right, the company focused for more than two years on research before debuting its first event with Sony Pictures Family Entertainment and The WB network in late May.

The company makes no apologies for its conservative approach. "We're doing something that's never been done before, and we wanted to make sure that it worked," Tyler said.

During the May sweeps, Sony and The WB teamed with Rotor to hold the first live, interactive animated event on the Internet. More than 4,000 cartoon-watching kids participated in the show, hosted by cartoon superhero Max Steel.

The TV program "Max Steel" debuted in February on The WB and has become one of the most popular Saturday-morning TV cartoons with boys. Executives with Sony, which produces "Max Steel," decided the show was ideal for an interactive event because it could be hosted by the main character and it contains lots of gadgets and characters that are fertile ground for discussion.

"We did it to give kids a one-on-one interaction with Max, strengthening the brand overall," said Tracey Tardiff, associate marketing director at Sony Pictures Family Entertainment. "(Rotor) really captured the essence of the show, and let us do things you didn't have time to explore on screen."

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