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Online Show Quarterlife Gets Picked Up By NBC For Network Debut; Strike Workaround With WGA Possible

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It is a bit of a co-incidence, but I was talking to a Portfolio reporter this morning about a story he was doing on how TV networks are trying develop original online shows, and in the middle of a strike, how would those be affected, and if they could ever have a chance of making it onto TV, or could they scale as online-only. Lo behold, something happens this evening: “Quarterlife,” the online-only show which debuted on MySpaceTV earlier this month, has been picked up by NBC Universal (NYSE: GE) for the network early next year, making the program among the first to originate online and then move to a major U.S. broadcaster. The show was created by Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick, creators of “thirtysomething” and “My So-Called Life”, and started on MySpaceTV on Nov 11, as a series of eight-minute total 36 shows are planned. The show is expected to begin on NBC in February or March after completing its run on the Web.

No financial details were disclosed, but NBC is now a partner in “Quarterlife.” It paid for the right to air the show on U.S. TV, internationally, on DVD and the Web. The two creators still retain ownership and creative control of the show. As long as the series runs, the episodes will first appear on the Quarterlife website.

But in light of the writers strike, this move gets casted in various lights, depending on which end of the spectrum you fall under. One, from Ben Silverman, co-chairman of NBC Entertainment, about writers compensation: “If there were more people with the (courage) of Marshall who are willing to bet on their own creative vision and finance themselves, then the (business) model becomes something they define,” he said, in this Reuters story.

Meanwhile, Herskovitz said, he is a guild member, and so are the writers who work for him, reports WSJ. The Quarterlife scripts are finished, and his writers have been honoring the strike. If the strike continues, he believes he will be able to negotiate a separate agreement with the Writers Guild of America that will allow his writing team to work, because the show is primarily an Internet venture. WGA has been open to Web-only ventures for writers.

THR reports on a slightly different nuance: It says NBC will also pitch in on production and Web development costs for quarterlife, which had been covered by advertisers and private investors, but Herskovitz and Zwick will continue to independently deficit-financing the series through quarterlife, inc. That makes the series strike-proof, because as an independent Internet production company, quarterlife, inc. is free to negotiate its own deal with WGA and not part of the current labor dispute.

Variety: Starting March, Silverman