TECH TALK–Shockwave Thinks Online Ben Stein Game Is Winner


Ben Stein, sporting a dark-blue blazer and a pink patterned Hermes tie, sat at a breakfast table in the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel with a handful of reporters, but he was the one asking most of the questions.

“Where did you go to school?” “Where are you from?” “What’s the capital of Missouri?”

The actor and writer, best known for his Comedy Central show “Win Ben Stein’s Money,” was at the hotel along with Chief Executive Rob Burgess to announce a Ben Stein game and e-card line that will be available on Shockwave by the fall.

Stein wasn’t just questioning the reporters; he grilled his business partner Burgess like a police interrogator (or a venture capitalist). “How does your site make money?” was one of several questions.

The answer: Currently through advertising, sponsorship and other traditional Internet revenue streams. Within six months, Shockwave plans to syndicate some of its original content to other sites and license out its characters for other projects.

As questions bounced around the table, it was clear that both Stein and Burgess were excited about their new deal.

“Games are by far and away the most visited part of, it’s at least 50 percent,” Burgess said.

The multi-player capabilities of the Stein game take online gaming to the next level, Burgess said. The as-yet-unnamed game will allow users around the world to select their rivals (even a cartoon Ben Stein, perhaps) in a question-and-answer game that will test users’ knowledge in categories such as art history and geography.

The best of the best players will not just have “bragging rights,” but could even gain an advantage to appear on “Win Ben Stein’s Money.” Prizes (“to be determined, not my money,” Stein proclaimed) will also be doled out to top-scoring players.

The venture is not Stein’s first foray onto the Internet; he currently writes an occasional column, “Monday Night at Morton’s,” offering a wry glimpse at Hollywood power dining, for E! Online. But the venture with Shockwave will be Stein’s most hands-on involvement to date, as he will help develop and produce original content. Exact terms of the deal were not released, but Stein will receive stock options in Shockwave, one of the few thriving entertainment content sites.

Shockwave, which operates out of offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco, is in the midst of signing a number of high-profile deals with names like Stein, David Lynch and “South Park” creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker.

Name Dropping at Voxxy

Be on the lookout for big announcements from Voxxy, the L.A.-based company planning to launch a portal and original entertainment site targeting pre-teen and teen-age girls.

The company plans to begin announcing in May that at least five top Hollywood producers, bands and celebrities will produce or provide original content for the site. Officials promise A-list Hollywood names and Emmy nominees.

As for the specifics, the company’s co-founders are keeping mum. But because “Friends” star Jennifer Aniston has already signed on to produce and star in an original series on, there’s little doubt the list will contain well-known people.

“All the people that we’re working with, we’ve admired or have had prior relationships with,” said Maxine Lapiduss, a Voxxy co-founder and former producer.

The Venice-based company is currently funded by individual investors (including several celebrities), and it’s now talking with venture capitalists, institutional investors and strategic partners to gain additional funds.

Comedian and actress Caroline Rhea has invested in the company and will be working with Voxxy in front of the camera. Tennis great Billie Jean King and “Regis and Kathie Lee” producer Michael Gelman are also among the investors and contributors.

So how did the company land Aniston’s support?

“Jennifer I’ve known for many years, and we’ve always wanted to work together,” Lapiduss said. “When she heard what we’re all about, that we want girls to be an active part of entertainment with them choosing what they want to see, she was very supportive and wanted immediately to be part of the company.”

Since the famous “Friend” signed on, the site’s cachet has increased.

“That made it possible for us to get to a lot of other desirable people, both in front of and behind the camera,” Lapiduss said.

The company is currently in pre-production or production on eight original series, including Aniston’s. Certain shows will be premiered on a specific day and time, like a TV program, but will also be available for download on demand after that, Lapiduss said.

The site will soft-launch in June, with some programming available even as the site is still undergoing testing. The official launch is expected by the end of the summer.

Staff reporter Laura Dunphy can be reached at [email protected].

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