YouTube led the Internet's user-generated video content explosion and now, the pros are seeping in.
Companies such as L.A.-based My Damn Channel and Beverly Hills-based Vuguru, both led by traditional media veterans, are streaming their studio-produced original content through major social networking sites including MySpace and YouTube.
My Damn Channel, only seven weeks old, made its debut on MySpace last week with video episodes created by comedian and political satirist Harry Shearer, producer Don Was and independent comic filmmaker David Wain.
Last week, Vuguru, headed by former Disney Chairman Michael Eisner, announced that it is spinning off its Emmy-nominated debut broadband series "Prom Queen" with "Prom Queen: Summer Heat" and making it available to Verizon Wireless V Cast Video, Reever and Blinkx, in addition to MySpace and YouTube.
Also last week, NBC Universal Inc. and News Corp. announced the debut of their new Web-based network of films and television shows, called Hulu.
The emergence of online TV was only a matter of time, said Rob Barnett, chief executive of My Damn Channel and previously the president of programming at CBS Corp.
"The purchase of YouTube for $1.65 billion started the gold rush," he said. "Within minutes of the sale, you started to see all the job titles at traditional media companies change to senior vice president of digital something or other."
Instead of a change in job title, Barnett decided to launch his own company with the help of venture funding from Long Beach-based Okapi Venture Capital. He operates the company from New York, while his chief operating officer Warren Chao, runs the L.A. shop, which now has less than a dozen full time employees.
Artists and My Damn Channel co-produce the original content, and the short-form episodes are syndicated on various Web platforms and the company Web site, MyDamnChannel.com. After licensing fees are paid to online platforms, the company splits its online advertising revenue in half with the artists.
"We try to give artists a deal that's very hard to find in show business," Barnett said. "The only way this business model works is to keep production costs low."
Between Barnett, who managed programming and production for 11 years at MTV Networks, and his cohort Paul Gallagher, also from VH1, the company is able to churn out high-quality episodes regularly while keeping the cost low, he said.
L.A.-based Twistbox Entertainment Inc., producer and publisher of mobile entertainment content, has received $19.5 million in funding from Valueact Capital and other investors.
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