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Justine Bateman’s Says TV Is Dead

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It seems everybody in Hollywood is developing a web show these days, but their approaches provide a study in contrast.

Yesterday Chris and I visited Justine Bateman and her three partners at, a new production company focused exclusively on making content for the web. Armed with revolutionary fever and Bateman’s idea for a show about a family candy company, is currently working to make a top-notch, union-compliant, big-budget television show that’s TV quality but doesn’t live on TV.

The actress, Bateman, most recently of Desperate Housewives but most memorably of Family Ties, is the ringleader of a group that also includes writer and producer Jill Kushner (The Ellen DeGeneres Show), Peter Murrieta (Wizards of Waverly Place) and Alan Sereboff (Snowblind). The four met on the picket line during the recent writers’ strike and developed the Speechless pro-writer online video campaign.

FM78 wants to make one show and do it well. In contrast, Strike.TV, which originated from the same writers’ strike, is aggregating some 45 shows — in many cases only a pilot — with the thought that, because of the established talent creating the shows an audience will find them on the Internet and they will somehow succeed, either in niche or mainstream fashion (see our interview with Strike.TV, also from yesterday). The four founders of FM78, however, explicitly reject the notion that the web is a farm team for TV, and hope to very soon have FM78 be their only job.

From FM78’s manifesto:

At we also recognize that ALL TV and Film distribution will be through the Internet exclusively in short order. We therefore see no sense in wasting time before getting high-quality, professional content online. We have seen user content and we have seen professionals doing user content, but we are focused on bringing the high level of professional entertainment we have been doing our entire careers straight to the Net.

What the two writer-led companies have in common is the overwhelming desire to rid themselves of “notes” from the network executives who traditionally get a say in the creative process. It’s a common theme here in L.A. and pretty much all anyone can talk about.

We met FM78 at Murrieta’s office in Hollywood yesterday and shot the above video of Bateman, Kushner, Murrieta and Sereboff explaining their project and their upcoming show, Candy Inc, which will feature Bateman, Jeff Garlin, Doug Stanhope and more and will be directed by Steve Pink. They’re also working with the folks behind You Suck at Photoshop for viral promotion. Provided FM78 can finance the series through sponsorship, it is to be released in 18 parts early next year.

15 Responses to “Justine Bateman’s Says TV Is Dead”

  1. Hey Les, thanks for the constructive criticism. I do think in this case it’s worth writing about a brand-new project and reporting what facts there are, and then letting it develop. Don’t worry, there will be followup coverage. And I have a broader analysis coming of the attitude towards new media in LA.

  2. Les Cowbell

    Jeez. These interviews with startups are so freaking generic, whether you read them in the paper, watch online, or talk to them in person. It’s the same crap over and over. You never asked about money, budget, etc.? (I’ve heard what their budget is, have you?) Enough EW style softballs; let’s get to some nitty gritty! When can we start getting an honest view of reality in this sectors… uh… journalism (if we can aspire to call it that)?

    1) The odds are beyond long. WAY BEYOND. What makes them different than a thousand others out there?
    2) The web (at present and for the near to mid future) is simply incapable of supporting the production values of traditional media. This is not conjecture; it’s demonstrably true. People continue to pretend otherwise by constructing elaborate, nonsensical scenarios (mostly for the purpose of #6 below).
    3) EVERYONE says, “OUR project will bring quality this, quality that, quality yadda yadda yadda….” Yeah, right. That goes out the door pretty quickly once the bills pile up.
    4) The vast majority of players in this arena don’t have to make money (for now).
    5) The majority of actors/creatives in this area want to use the web as a stepping stone to getting back into TV/film –some admit it, others only fess up privately.
    6) Most web video destinations/entities are waiting for the big fish; either a media powerhouse to snag or a sucker who thinks they can roll the dice with more luck (and maybe hold out until their big fish comes along). They talk an anti-corporate game to get their street cred, but would sell their money pit in a split second to a major corporate entity.

    If you’re not gonna call bullshit once in a while, you should at least get one or two pointed questions in. There are several instances in this interview where the team has clearly failed to think things through from a web video business perspective. They need to partner up with someone who’s got serious scars and some business acumen… now.

    PLEASE. Edit these things down. Everyone will look better and the brevity will flatter you.

  3. William Maggos

    @Liz – true, but as discussed on TWIM the past couple of weeks, the budget for TV far outstrips what web shows can make these days. for all the talk about youtube and watching video online, its only video podcasts watched on an HDTV (using an Apple TV/mac-mini/etc) that actually improves upon the Tivo experience, and thats for episodic content only of course. until more people have this type of setup, 20-minute HQ shows are simply not gonna have the number of viewers needed to get the necessary ad dollars.

    that said, gets it. we will be getting all our video and audio over the internet sometime soon. and the best part about this is the greater independence of the creators, from a fan perspective as well.

    these are the kind of stories i love to see here, thank you.

  4. Patty Masters

    “…we are focused on bringing the high level of professional entertainment we have been doing our entire careers straight to the Net.”

    sounds good but how do you do it with a fraction of the budget these guys are used to on network TV??

  5. Is there anything you guys don’t cover? Do you think the more articles the better? I subscribed to this, hoping for technology news, analysis and opinions – instead I’m getting hundreds of articles about actors every day.