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Summary:

The folks at EQAL, who practically put the concept of newteevee on the map with lonelygirl15, are foregoing original content to focus on building online extensions of established brands, like the company’s new project with TV chef Paula Deen. What does it say about the state […]

The folks at EQAL, who practically put the concept of newteevee on the map with lonelygirl15, are foregoing original content to focus on building online extensions of established brands, like the company’s new project with TV chef Paula Deen. What does it say about the state of original episodic content online when one of its biggest success stories believes its future lies in traditional TV?

We first learned about this news in a post over at MediaWeek, so we talked with EQAL’s co-founder and COO, Greg Goodfried, to find out more. “We have taken a shift, currently, from recurring serial dramas to focus on working with existing entertainment properties,” said Goodfried.

Some of those existing properties Goodfried is talking about include its partnership with CBS for Harper’s Island/Globe, working with Anthony Zuiker (creator of the CSI franchise) on the Level26.com portion of his “digi-novel,” an upcoming project with actress Alicia Silverstone, and a new project quietly being rolled out with southern belle chef Deen.

EQAL is running the digital extension of Deen’s cooking empire and is charged with the creation of Get Cookin’, an online community/cooking/reality show (which presumably will involve lots of butter and bacon). Goodfried went on the road with the Deen crew to shoot behind-the-scenes footage of stuff like her recent trip for an appearance on Good Morning America. EQAL will work to bring the Deen family and fans together online to interact with each other through videos, blog posts and more. EQAL is also working on ad sales for Deen online.

What drove EQAL, kings of new media, into the warm embrace of old media? Goodfried said there were two factors. First, traditional media brands were coming to EQAL looking for this kind of digital extension. Second, he said it’s unreasonable to think you can come up with an original idea and expect advertisers to finance it anymore. Advertisers want brands that already have a built-in audience (like Paula Deen).

This desire for a known brand is something we’ve heard before. ABC abandoned original online content in favor of creating off-shoots of established TV shows like Ugly Betty.

EQAL hasn’t abandoned original content entirely. “We definitely believe in the creation and production of original content for the Internet,” Goodfried said. It’s just more challenging now. Goodfried believes original content creation needs to be done dirt cheap and it needs to have its own hub where a community can be built (and become less reliant on the promotional whims of YouTube). Even then, though, Goodfried says, those brands will still have a hard time reaching and establishing relationships with advertisers.

One thing is for sure, Goodfried will be reaching for some plus-sized pants if Get Cookin’ takes off and he has to spend a lot of time on the road with the Deen entourage.

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  1. Mike Hudack from Blip.tv has some great insights on this. Check out his interview with Jolie from ReadWriteWeb: http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/bliptvs_mike_hudak_on_the_evolution_and_equalizati.php

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    1. Thanks Drew.

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  2. I’m not surprised. At the end of the day, people need to start realizing that producing content is a business. Online video is heading the same was as blogging did — associate yourself with a big brand and become a brand extension.

    • Aanarav
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  3. [...] news out of the content-packed day, web studio EQAL is moving away from its bread and butter serialized dramas—lonelygirl15, KateModern, Harper’s Globe—and into creating a new cooking [...]

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  4. I think EQAL’s core competency has always been in creating an engaging community experience. That’s what they did with Lonelygirl15, KateModern, and now Harper’s Globe. By all rights, they should be leveraging their position and profiting from their success. In the short run, that will keep them in the black amidst this advertising and economic glut. They’ve proved they can tell stories and make compelling content — they’ll come back to it when the time is right.

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    1. Chris Albrecht Thursday, June 11, 2009

      I dunno, Brady. I’ll bet no one on-set at a Lonelygirl shoot ever made deep fried bacon wrapped mac-n-cheese.

      Seriously though. I’m not ruling out the possibility of EQAL coming back to scripted, but I would bet hitching a reality ride with a celeb has got to be less work than coming up with an original idea, writing it, shooting it, editing it, and promoting it. Repeat.

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  5. Currently HarpersGlobe.com has just over 10,200 members and that is a web series that is running TV commercials. Is that a commercially viable formula?

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  6. It is if someone is paying you to build them.

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  7. LG15.com currently has 3076 members and the Eqal show (LG15: The Resistance) is on hold because of lack of funding. The current show is being created by fans who have also had to program their own grease monkey java script to reprogram the web site so it works in a way that meets their needs.

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  8. The web site was paid for by 5 million in VC money….so where is the return on the investment? Now, CBS is probably paying for the production of HG so that is probably revenue neutral. The 5m should keep them alive for a while but clearly they have a substantial burn rate and no clear exit strategy other than perhaps selling to CBS.

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  9. [...] for the pioneering EQAL, it also marks something of change in course for the producers.  As Chris Albrecht at NewTeeVee reports, EQAL has put original programming on hold and is expanding existing television properties for [...]

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  10. EQAL hasn’t produced any original video series content in 6 months.

    i also don’t think they have ever been “in the black” — its been an innovator and experimenter in the field, with the help of VC funding. Having done many tests, they realize it is almost impossible to produce independent webseries that are truly profitable. so EQAL’s move to brand-extension content may be a very important signal for the near future.

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