EQAL, aka the online studio created by the lonelygirl15 guys (but now focusing on derivative rather than original content), today announced a new hosted social platform. The product, called Umbrella, is aimed at other web series creators as well as celebrities and web stars who want to provide content and connect with fans. A private beta has yet to launc, and pricing has not yet been announced.
EQAL said in a press release that the advantage of its platform will be its simplicity and close links to existing Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts. Users will be able to create profiles, discuss topics among each other in forums, and view episodes. Around the time it raised $5 million in funding last year, EQAL had acquired a white-label social-networking platform. It used the platform most recently for Harper’s Globe, its companion web series for CBS’ Harper’s Island. The idea is to move the community that builds around a show out of the free-for-all on sites like YouTube and MySpace and onto a platform that’s dedicated to it.
EQAL said Umbrella will be a simplified version of this enterprise service, giving site owners the ability to harness information about their users drawn from them connecting up their Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts.
But while being able to control the environment around its shows has been good for EQAL, it’s now putting itself into competition with heavyweights like Ning that have serious amounts of funding and have sunk large amounts of time into building easy-to-use white-label social sites for celebrities and entertainment properties. Making original content might have turned out to be an exceedingly difficult business, but white-label social networks are not exactly an open frontier.