Blog Post

HBO Purchases Rights to Machinima Vid

HBO has bought the North American television rights to a Second Life-based machinima, reports GigaOM writer Wagner James Au on his site New World Notes.

The machinima (embedded above, still viewable on YouTube here), is set up as the first in a series by multimedia director Douglas Gayeton, who goes by Molotov Alva in the virtual world Second Life. It tells a story about Alva and his connection to “a man by the same name mysteriously [who] disappeared from his real world California home in January 2007.”

HBO, paying an undisclosed price, has promised to air the machinima next spring, submit it for an Oscar in the Animated Short Subject category, and try to premiere it as Sundance, Gayeton told Au. Update: The price was a “six-figure sum,” according to Reuters.

Interestingly, the machinima, which was made with Submarine, a Dutch production studio, was intended for “an experimental web/television portal in Europe,” but was posted to YouTube by a Submarine staffer, where it picked up nearly a half million views and, according to Gayeton, attracted a bidding war between U.S. networks.

“This is the rare Second Life news that is worthy of full superlatives,” writes Au.

[I]t’s the highest profile example of an SL-to-RL rights deal so far, leveraging Linden Lab’s policy in which Residents retain the underlying intellectual property rights to content they create in-world.  (It far eclipses Tringo’s SL-to-Nintendo Gameboy deal of a couple years ago.)  It’s the first SL machinima to sell to a major TV broadcaster.  (Longtime SL auteur Pierce Portocarrero recently landed a well-deserved development deal with NBC on the strength of his Second Life machinima like this one, but to my knowledge, the network didn’t purchase the broadcast rights to Pierce’s existing works.)  It’s also the first time SL-based content has landed someone a Hollywood agent, for in the acquisition process, Gayeton secured representation with UTA, among the industry’s "big five" firms, which also counts Johnny Depp, Harrison Ford, and the Coen Brothers as clients.  I suspect some non-Second Life superlatives are in order too, though I’m less sure here: it’s probably the biggest Hollywood purchase of a video which first aired on YouTube, and the most prominent distribution deal for a machinima project made in any 3D platform.